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Men’s Shed Movement Book availability 2019

The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book, Edited by Barry Golding, was published in 2015 by Common Ground Publishing in Champaign, Illinois.

The book is available for order in 2019 paperback for US$25  (postage is extra) or US$15 as a pdf copy (with colour photos) via the following link: The book is also available for order on line via Amazon, as well as in Australia through the Angus and Robertson on line store.

The Men’s Shed Movement book was nominated for the Australian Journal on Ageing Book Award for 2017. One of the reviewers said ‘The book will be a valuable resource for those looking into the contribution of Men’s Sheds to society in the future’

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

This is a reworking, updating  and expansion of a paper I originally created for a 2004 ‘Black Gold’ Conference in Castlemaine that included an inspirational corroboree on Leanganook, Mount Alexander. The original paper was dated 23 October 2004 and called ‘The Great Dividing Trail and its associations with Djadjawurrung country’ .

Barry Golding, Federation University Australia,

May 2018


I have lived in Djadjawurrung country virtually all my life. I have become increasingly and acutely aware – from a range of experiences, people, sources and interactions over a lifetime of 68 years – of the many ways Aboriginal people have shaped, and continue to reshape, white understandings (an ignorance) of Australia generally, and understandings of the Indigenous and cultural heritage of the Central Highlands of Victoria in particular. Given my lifetime living, working and re-creating in this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, my paper traces the origins of my own, ongoing personal awakening to Dja Dja Wurrung associations and presence in the local landscape and community with an emphasis on what transpired here after contact in 1836. It starts from the uneasy silences behind the meaning of stone axes and cooking ovens found and experienced in wheat paddocks during my childhood in the Wimmera during the 1950s. My paper identifies some possible ways to continue to heal the ongoing, contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia. It identifies the potential for local and collaborative exploration, understanding and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.


I firstly acknowledge the traditional owners of the land I have lived in for most of my life, in Donald, Daylesford, Kooroocheang and Kingston, the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation Elders and and peoples, past and present.

My aim in this presentation is to touch on how I have become aware, as a non-Indigenous Australian, of the need for all Australians to have access to better information about history and heritage in all its forms. In particular I acknowledge the pressing need for all Australians to acknowledge, read and constantly reinterpret the many and ongoing Aboriginal connections between this land, our partly shared (but often poorly acknowledged) past and our shared and (sometimes contested) present. This is in addition to the need to provide present day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with better opportunities to recover and replenish land, people, community and culture.

I will start with a brief explanation as to how my thinking has been shaped by my experiences of being born, living and working in what I now recognise as Dja Dja Wurrung country for most of my life. I will then turn to some aspects of the local contact period that we have most information of through written records – particularly relating to the setting up of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at present day Franklinford prior to the white re-discovery of gold. I will conclude by looking specifically at some Aboriginal connections and narratives that might be enhanced by other people following in the footsteps of many others that have walked this country for millennia and undertaking their own journeys of reconciliation.

Early experiences that shape my narrative


Like most Australians, I have fortuitously discovered Aboriginal connections in spite of the difficulties rather than because they were there for all to read. Most of my connections come through narrative – and are therefore best expressed in these words in the same way. I was born into a white community in the 1950s prone to silences about many things. The closest one could safely get to acknowledge the Aboriginal past during my teenage years was to collect and display ‘objects’ in museums. Tom Griffiths neatly teases out the ‘History and Natural History’ world I was born into on his Hunters and Collectors book from 1996.

Like all Australians, I do have a history and a culture, but like most Australians there was a time when I wasn’t sure what it was. I remember in my early 20s being stuck for words, in Germany ironically, while performing with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band as part of Australia’s folklore presentation at the World Cup Soccer finals in 1974, when someone first asked me “Tell me about your culture”. Like the majority of Australians, my maternal and paternal families were basically Anglo – but some did get their hands dirty locally within Dja Dja Wurrung country. My great grandfather, William Golding, was a gold miner at the Lord Nelson mine in St Arnaud: the last major goldfields township in northwest of Victoria. The road beyond St Arnaud leaves the rocky, often dry, and mined out hills and passes the Woolpack Hotel past the optimistically named, now ‘ghost town’ of New Bendigo, before dropping onto the apparently endless, flat plains towards the Murray River and beyond into the vast Australian inland. About 40 km north of St Arnaud is a flat little town on the sluggish, rarely flowing and now highly saline Richardson River. This is Donald, my original hometown. It is now wheat and sheep country, but it has not always been so.

All of that country between where I now live in Kingston on the rolling, well-watered, high altitude, volcanic plains, and the flat and dry plains around Donald form part of the traditional country of Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal nation. The Donald Bush Nursing Hospital where I was born is on a billabong of the Richardson River, which forms the boundary between the adjacent Jardwadjali country, one of around 25 distinct Aboriginal nations in Victoria and several hundred in Australia at the time of contact. Dja Dja Wurrung country stretched east west from near Bendigo to Avoca, from the Great Dividing Range to near Pyramid Hill.


My paternal grandmother was a Pearse whose family had fled rural poverty and religious oppression in England and made a new start – first on the goldfields in Ballarat and later as ‘selectors’ in the Aboriginal lands appropriated in the Wimmera between the 1840s and 1860s. My family was therefore implicated in part of the original and convenient exterminating act that invoked terra nullius. They were certainly involved in sheep grazing of former Aboriginal grasslands as well as clearing the country of the Buloke (Casuarina) and Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodlands for broad scale wheat cropping – at the same time as John Hepburn was helping build the back part of the former Creswick Shire Hall I now live in – as Chair of the previous Creswick and District Roads Board in 1859. Indeed the Board members were Hepburn’s pallbearers in the funeral procession through nearby Smeaton when he died in 1860. All of this happened just over 20 years after John Hepburn came overland from Moruya in New South Wales to ‘take up country’ in April 1838 near present day Kooroocheang with his family and several thousand sheep. Again, ironically, Hepburn built his house alongside several large Aboriginal ovens in a land (an Australian Felix and Eden of Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836) that had been declared legally empty and was regarded as theirs for the taking.

I have started with this brief but wide ranging reflection on family to illustrate the point that many white Australians, including myself, have lived all of our lives in landscapes and environments shaped by thousands of years of Aboriginal history but greatly changed by relatively recent dispossession. We generally have few narrative ‘hooks’ that date back to the time or nature of contact on the frontier. Though my ancestors lived relatively recently on the frontier, and my own house was built only 22 years after first local contact, understandings and interpretations of these environments and what happened here are neither easy to find in accessible or accurate histories, nor easy to accept or embrace. And yet non-Aboriginal people such as myself born in the 1950s were only two life spans away from the times and events of Aboriginal contact. Ivy Sampson, daughter of Thomas Dunolly, a Dja Dja Wurrung man taken as a child from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station to Coranderrk near current day Healesville in 1864, died less than 20 years ago in 1987.

The tragedy is that many Australians, black and white, often take much of a lifetime to make sense of the poorly documented but shared connections with this relatively recent Aboriginal history. My awakenings began early from the ground up and were at first fragmentary. As a young child I was fascinated by the many Aboriginal stone axes and grindstones made from Mt William greenstone and Grampians quartzite respectively – turned up by ploughing, and typically stored on farm tank stands in the Donald area. There were a few photos in the local museum of ‘King Johnny’ with a brass plate and patronising captions. But for me as a teenager in Donald in the 1960, my only first hand contact with Aboriginal Australia was one Aboriginal railway worker originally from remote Warburton in Western Australia and one Aboriginal family in St Arnaud. Only 100 years after the original dispossession, Donald in the Wimmera, was, like many towns in the area, an almost totally white, Anglo community, in a landscape comprehensively shaped, named and cultured by whites.


The first inkling for me of the scale of prior Aboriginal settlement came from my efforts as a teenager to map the distribution of Aboriginal ovens across the countryside – so obvious in red soil paddocks with their fertile, black soil and fragments of baked clay. While many farmers had known of their existence for decades, no one had bothered to map them. By the time I was sixteen I had mapped 160 ovens across the Donald Shire in a distinct pattern that hugged the Richardson River valley and the former shorelines of Lake Buloke. Though the pattern was there and the stone artefacts were everywhere, very few people acknowledged that people or culture had been here, let alone survived. In part it was because the later narratives of pastoralism (and in the Central Highlands area, gold) tend to become hegemonic rather than recent historical veneers.

Wider experiences and horizons leading to an interest in the Franklinford story


In between leaving Donald and moving to the Daylesford area in the 1970s I had other transformative experiences in my travels elsewhere in Australia – that forever changed my childhood impression that Australia’s Aboriginal connections and diverse communities were only history. As a touring musician with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, in the 1970s in the hundreds of towns and cities we did concerts in across Australia I was constantly confronted: by the reality and diversity of contemporary Aboriginal Australia. Naively in retrospect, I was surprised to encounter large Walpiri speaking communities in Yuendumu 300 km north west of Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert, barely 20 years since pastoral contact. There were ‘fringe dwellers’ living in poverty in many inland Australian and outback towns in all Australian states and the Northern Territory, Torres Strait Islanders on Thursday Island, Aboriginal communities on Cape York and on the Queensland railways, Aboriginal stockmen in western Queensland as well as in parts of all Australian capital cities. Closer to home, Yorta Yorta people who had walked off Cummeragunja Reserve in 1939 were living in humpies on the Murray River near Echuca in Victoria just an hour’s drive from Donald.

I was stunned by a disproportionate number of Kooris then denied from the national census, work and education – but over-represented in the prison population. The deeper one dug and the more one travelled, the more Indigenous connections were visible – in the people, the communities, the names of places, and the vegetation. But most of all at that time I was confronted by the hard truth that the ‘traditional’ Australian ‘folk’ music our band played was at best only traditional in a very narrow and incredibly superficial sense, and at worst a blatant contemporary lie.

In my early days post-band in Daylesford in the 1970s I started searching for links that I knew from experience elsewhere, would likely be found everywhere – if I knew where to look and looked hard enough. I found the physical connections in many places. On the old geology maps of the Ballan and Werona areas geologists had found, recorded and marked several native ovens. When I went to these sites I found stone scatters including axe head fragments. When teaching at (now) Daylesford Secondary College I was alerted by students to what turned out to be over 20 Aboriginal ovens on private property in the Smeaton, Campbelltown, Kooroocheang and Werona areas. In the Daylesford museum I came across huge collections of photos and artefacts as well and busts of named Aboriginal people. Through them I became aware of the great research and thinking done by Edgar Morrison from the 1960s[1] in teasing out the history of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate from the original records. Morrison left monuments and other commemorative clues in the landscape that I now realise were there to guide later others in their attempts to make some sense of a history that was otherwise either denied, or apparently lacking sense.

I also realise now -from re-reading his work, that Morrison was in some small sense politicised by his experiences and faith in the late 1960s, as the then Methodist church sided with the Wik people – in unsuccessfully resisting one of the last of many ‘successful’ major grabs for Aboriginal land by mining companies. I recall with shame playing what we then called ‘traditional Australian music’ in the company town of Weipa in the early 1970s to a company-assembled, white-only audience of miners and their families for the Queensland Arts Council. The company had deliberately rigged up a hessian screen to, as they said, to keep ‘the darkies out’. As we started playing, the hessian dropped and countless young black faces encircled the paying audience through the wire mesh fence. At this point what little was left of my south eastern Australian, ‘hunters and collectors’ view of Australian Aboriginal history as stone artefacts – that I had been brought up with, was getting pretty shaky indeed.

In my reading of Edgar Morrison, he was also making links between what had occurred on the frontier in his own community of Franklinford in the name of Empire, God and progress just over 100 years before, and what was occurring in the same year, 1968 to another Aboriginal nation on a northern frontier to the Wik people – this time with serious concerns from parts of the church about justice and equity. It was, in part, these efforts to recognise Aboriginal land that led within a decade to limited recognition, in some States and Territories, including the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976) –and later in both the High Court Mabo (1992) and Wik (1996) decisions.

For those who don’t know, and apologies for those that do, the story of how the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate came to be set up at Franklinford in 1841 is worth briefly recounting, particularly given its relevance to the gold rush period that followed almost immediately after the Protectorate’s demise by 1849. The Aboriginal Protectorate System[2] was set up as a result of a British Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples during 1837. Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State was one of the chief initiators of schemes to protect the inhabitants of British colonies. He ordered that the Protectorate be confined to the Port Phillip District, then, like this part of present day Victoria, a part of the former colony New South Wales.

The underlying basis of the Protectorate lay in the refusal of the British Government to recognise prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal people. In effect Aboriginal people were regarded as being under British sovereignty from the outset, though with almost no legal or constitutional rights. The Protectorate system was a gratuitous offer of ‘protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over their Ancient Possessions’ [Glenelg to Bourke, 1837]. The idea was hatched at a time of increased hostility and conflict between invading European settlers and the Aboriginal landowners. Its instigation was widely and sometimes savagely criticised by the popular press and the many overlanders turned squatters on the rich, Aboriginal managed, volcanic grasslands in the then Port Phillip colony.

Four Assistant Protectors were appointed in Britain in December 1837 including Edward Parker, previously a Wesleyan minister and teacher. None had any prior experience of Aboriginal people and all were recruited directly from the United Kingdom. The Chief Protector, George Augustus Robinson most recently from the floundering Flinders Island Aboriginal Station, was appointed Chief Protector. He had played a pivotal role in the previous decade in ‘successfully’ coercing and forcibly removing Indigenous Tasmanians to Flinders Island.

The stated aim of the Protectors in the Port Phillip colony was to:

watch over the rights and interest of the natives and endeavour to gain their respect and confidence … protect them from any encroachments on their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice.

The Assistant Protectors’ specific brief was to attach themselves to the tribes of the District (in Parker’s case, the area about Mount Macedon ‘and the country to the northward’) until they could be persuaded to settle in one location. Once ‘settled’ they were to be taught European agricultural, technological, social and religious practices. It was assumed that the Assistant Protectors would learn Aboriginal language and customs but achieve their aims by moral and religious (Christian) instruction.

All Assistant Protectors arrived in Sydney in August 1838 and arrived in Melbourne in January 1839. Parker left Melbourne in August 1839 but proceeded only as far as Jackson’s Creek near Sunbury where he built a hut for his young family. Parker briefly occupied a site at Neereman (on the Loddon River downstream of Baringhup and upstream of O’Brien’s Crossing) from November 1840 to June 1841. Parker had firmly noted in 1840 that …

I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of Aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance.

Each Assistant Protector was, at least in theory, to create an inner reserve of one square mile for cultivation purposes, as well as a station and an outer reserve of five miles in radius for ‘the hunting ground of the natives’, with no nearby squatter’s stations and as far as possible from the major lines of communication. In June 1840 Parker was asked to set up a proposed reserve on the Loddon River ‘near a hill called by the natives Tarrengower’. Though the site was already occupied and the reserve was disputed by the squatters Dutton and Darlot, by February 1840 twelve permanent Aboriginal dwellings had been built at Neereman. For a range of reasons, including Neereman’s perceived unsuitability for agriculture, a new site for the North West Protectorate Station was decided on at ‘an old sheep station of Mr Mollison’s called Jim Crow Hill[3]. Located at Larnebarramul (‘House of the Emu’), at the time of the Station’s establishment, the land was owned by the Gunangara gunditj clan of the Dja Dja Wurrrung Aboriginal Nation, though occupied by Mollison, one of the invading squatters. The boundary of the inner square mile reserve around the Protectorate Station was nevertheless proclaimed by Governor Gipps in 1840.

The full history of the Mount Franklin Protectorate could and should fill several books. Suffice to say in his brief paper, the history of the original Aboriginal Protectorate and later Aboriginal Station at Franklinford spans 23 years between 1841 and 1864. Parker’s census of 1841 listed 282 Aboriginal people. This number was far from ‘pre-contact’ as a consequence of well documented conflict with Europeans – including deliberate killing, post-contact European diseases and particularly evidence of one or more major smallpox epidemics which originated and were spread from the vicinity of Sydney soon after the arrival of the First Fleet: (see Noel, Butlin, Our original aggression). There were two Aboriginal institutional interventions in the now Franklinford area, both with strong Christian missionary underpinnings: the first, the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at Franklinford (1841-1849), and a later one, the Mount Franklin Station from 1853 to 1864 at the base of Mt Franklin. These institutional policies and practices were administered by three government organisations: the Aboriginal Protectorate (1839-49); the Office of the Guardian of Aborigines (1850-59) and the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (1860-1870).

By 1843 the Protectorate system was in disarray: hampered by colonial bureaucracy, a legal system that gave Indigenous people minimal rights and hostility from both squatters and Aborigines. It was, in part, Parker’s favourable reports on the Loddon River Protectorate Station in 1843 and also in 1845 which saved the Protectorate system, at least until a NSW Parliamentary Select Committee recommended its abolishment in late 1849. By 1854 the Aboriginal Protectorate had been dissolved and all that remained were an enclosed paddock which continued to be used as an Aboriginal School, but was closed by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1864. The Township of Franklinford was subdivided on the same site as the Protectorate in 1858-59. The remaining Aboriginal children were forcibly moved in 1864 to Coranderrk near present day Healesville. Most of the voluminous records from these events are still preserved in State and National archives.

On a visit to the Commonwealth archives in suburban Brighton with Koori students in 1989 I was particularly taken by the incredible irony in an original copy of handwriting exercise – penned by an Aboriginal woman, Ellen, at Franklinford on March 3,1864, just before the closure of the Aboriginal School at Franklinford. The lines she repeated down the pages were ‘Duties demand attention and method’, ‘Valour can do little without prudence’ and the acutely ironic words, ‘Compare past woes with present felicity’. On January 28 of the same year Edward Parker ‘most earnestly deprecate[d]’ the Central Aboriginal Board ‘any attempt to remove the young people now attached to the Aboriginal school’. Parker stressed that such removal could only be effected by coercive means’. In a separate document the Guardian of Aborigines, William Thomas separately argued against ‘the breaking up of the Franklinford Station altogether after 25 years’, noting that ‘… there is scarce a year but 2 or 3 afflicted blacks are brought here to die from the surrounding country – we may justly say in the interim, other refuge have they none.’

Making Indigenous connections to the contemporary local landscape

Knowing what had happened in the Daylesford area, including to the Dja Dja Wurrung nation in a contemporary Australian nation that was intent of having a party to ‘celebrate’ 1988, the Bicentenary of the arrival of the first permanent white settlement at Sydney Cove seemed to me like a huge contradiction. That year at our adopted home, as a form of public protest the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston, we got a sign writer to write ‘Australia was settled, mapped and cultured before 1788: Don’t celebrate’ on a sign facing the street.

In 1988 I left a secure secondary teaching position in Daylesford to take up a contract at the School of Mines and Industries in Ballarat (SMB), helping to set up the first TAFE Aboriginal programs in Ballarat with guidance from the recently established Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative then in nearby Eyre Street. I was an experienced teacher and a recently Accredited Amateur Archaeologist with Victorian Archaeological Survey (VAS). I had a good knowledge of Aboriginal sites and stone artefacts, but still had a lot to learn about Aboriginal nations, people and culture. The SMB experience taught me much and brought me to another realisation: that around 300 Aboriginal people, many with Stolen Generations backgrounds, then lived in Ballarat and District. The late Alec Jacomos worked carefully and sensitively with many of our students with institutions involved in previous the Ballarat Children’s Homes, Many knew little or nothing about their parents, families, culture or land and were seeking to identify their lost or fragmentary Aboriginal connections. Molly Dyer from Horsham taught in our Aboriginal Welfare Study programs and one day brought her mother Marg Tucker, featured in the Lousy little sixpence documentary from 1983 about the Stolen Generations, to the SMB TAFE auditorium. Several Ballarat Aboriginal people had multiple connections to several Stolen Generations. Some others had links – some clear and others less clear – to families from the ‘Mission and Central Station’ era that followed around 20 years after the demise of the Protectorates. Some Victorian Aboriginal people could trace their roots back to the late 1800s at Lake Condah and Framlingham, Ebenezer and Cummeragunja. Some also were Dja Dja Wurrung descendants via Coranderrk. One day in the mid-1990s I recall looked in the Bendigo phonebook and found a ‘T. Dunolly’ – which clearly indicated to me how close it all was to home. And then there were the oral histories.

My ‘scratching around in the landscape’ as I call it, took in several new local sites in the Kooroocheang, Franklinford and Campbelltown areas. I fondly recall wagging school teaching one sunny afternoon in 1987 with the late Rex Morgan – wading in our underpants – to closely explore the Larnebarramul (nest of the emu) lagoon at Franklinford. David Rhodes’ invaluable study of the archaeological history of the Protectorate was aptly dedicated to Rex. I found that combining public tours with narrative and documents from the 1980s to the present made aspects of the Aboriginal history literally leap out of the local landscape in ways that many people had not heard or experienced.

In one sense the Great Dividing Trail (GDT) and Association that I championed and became President of for many years came out of those experiences of reading the country in the early 1990s. It also came out of parallel and debilitating experiences from fifteen frustrating years of losing countless environmental battles about forest values other than for cellulose, but in retrospect winning a lesser number of wars with governments over the same issues. It was timely for me to work with communities to help create something positive to hand on. And in just 25 years we the GDTA, have achieved much. The GDT concept also came out of my reading of the national Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) debates, that around that time suggested a potential for sustainable tourism and a small number of other profitable enterprises predicated on the overlap between what is economically and environmentally sustainable.

So how might local government and non-government organisations improve the still woeful knowledge of what happened in ‘settled’ Australia and improve contemporary understandings and narratives of land, culture and community? As part of the valuable RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan) process currently in train in many organisations, I argue that it is essential to to expose Australians to the ongoing and contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia, by telling what happened here, and importantly telling it wherever possible with and by Aboriginal traditional owners, on country and on site. There are many opportunities for local and collaborative exploration, understanding, narrative and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage in the Hepburn and other Shires, with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.

As one illustration only, there the Murnong (Microseris scapigera) also known as the Yam Daisy’ that still grows in places in the bush and on some protected roadsides. [4] Much of the information in this account comes from one of the great early research works of ethnobotanist, Beth Gott, now in her 90s. A preferred traditional food of Aborigines in central and western Victoria, the Murnong is the Wurundjeri/ Wathaurung name. Once recorded in its millions in the carefully fired and managed Aboriginal grasslands and open woodlands in all States including Tasmania and Western Australia and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, it is now impossible to find on grazed land. For those not familiar with the Murnong, it is a perennial herb, springing up from a swollen tuber resembling in shape a small round radish or tapering carrot. The Murnong lies dormant in high summer, but in autumn a rosette of upright, smooth leaves develops and the tuber begins to shrivel to produce flowers, on long stalks, first characteristically bent downwards.

By mid-summer, all that is left is the dried flower stalks and the buried tuber. The old tuber was bitter and less edible in early winter, though the food source was so valuable it could in effect be used year round. Gathered by Aboriginal women using a digging stick: in some areas 8kg (enough to feed a family for a day) could be collected in an hour. They were washed and usually cooked by heating stones in the fire and covering them with grass with earth over the top. When roasted they are sweet, very delicious and nutritious. Indeed, 100 gm of murnong contains 264kj of nutritional energy (compared with 285 kj for a Jerusalem Artichoke and 335 kj for a potato). Oven mounds were called mirrn’yong mounds, which seems to indicate that murnong was the most cooked food in them.

Aboriginal burning practices during the dry season did not harm the tubers. The deliberate burning kept the volcanic grasslands open for herbivores, cleared dead vegetation, leaving open ground, fertilised by ash, suitable for new growth. Introduction of sheep: 700,000 in Victoria by 1840, led directly to the loss of this major Djadjawurrung food resource, since the plains and open forests where it preferentially grew were also areas where murnong was most abundant. As an interesting aside, John Hepburn already had Murnong cultivated in his garden when Aboriginal Protectors Robinson and Parker stayed with him at Smeaton Hill in February 1841. The loss of the Murnong in the Aboriginal grasslands with the introduction of sheep led directly to a need for many Aboriginal people to accept the dole of flour and sugar from Europeans. The cessation of Aboriginal digging and burning limited the Murnong spread. By 1860 the Yam Daisy was sufficiently scarce for younger Aborigines around Melbourne to be uncertain of its identity.

But that is not the end of the narrative. Enter the Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris), described by the Robinson as Chief Protector of Aborigines in an area between present day Smeaton and Campbelltown on 18 February 1840 in such numbers as resembling a large white cloud in their tens of thousands. In the same diary entry – to set the scene – Robinson observed a familiar geological scene but a less familiar, present day botanical and ecological covering. ‘These hills are thinly grassed and very stony … occasional fragments of quartz strewed on the ground on the E verge of the plain … timber as usual sheoak [Casuarina], Cherry [Exocarpus], honeysuckle [Callistemon] and wattle [Acacia]’. The next italicised e diary entry is particularly telling. ‘Some places where the natives have been … saw places where they had roasted and eaten the [Freshwater] mussel … There is one thing certain. This Eden is not occupied.’ (italics added).

Studies of the Long-billed Corella in 1986[5] confirmed that ‘… a precipitous decline in both range and numbers …. occurred at the time of European colonisation.’ (p.7). By the 1950s the Long-billed Corella was in such low numbers it was considered endangered. After much research it was found that ‘the food item on which the corella originally thrived was the same underground vegetable extensively utilised by the aborigines (sic) of south-eastern Australia’ (p.8). Importantly,

its disappearance from the plains and rivers was one of the factors contributing to the rapid demise of aboriginal populations in south eastern Australia. This abundant plant disappeared within one or two growing seasons after sheep and cattle began grazing where it grew. Once the yam disappeared from an area, we believe [that] the corella populations very quickly declined through starvation and in many places the corellas were exterminated because of this.                                                     ( Best, Sinclair & Alexander, p.8)

This one complex but insightful story attempts to illustrate how one plant and its complex ecological associations with a bird continue to be disrupted over hundreds of years later. Stories like this might be able to be used to alert people as to the way our natural environment, like our human community, retains and presents evidence of present and past changes – if only we are sensitised to read and understand them. Similar complex stories lie in many other parts of our material and cultural artefacts with Aboriginal connections, including through native plants and animals, in named features in the Australian landscape, in historical documents, in paintings, poetry and literature. But most of all, the stories, along with the lies and silences I was born into in the 1950s, remain embedded mostly in people’s life experiences. Contributing actively and positively to everyone’s Indigenous and environmental narrative is (and should be) a critically important task as part of Indigenous Australian reconciliation.

In so many senses the history of this great land lies in a reading and understanding of the present. It resides in using and valuing the place names and their meanings. Some well known features have worn several other names in 150 years that each tells their own story. There mas be as many as three Dja Dja Wurrung names, including Larnebarramul (nest of the emu), Willamebarramul, ‘place of the emu’ or Lalgambook. ‘Jim Crow’ as John Hepburn called the same mountain sounds superficially quaint but is historically racist, and was called Mt Franklin following Sir John Franklin’s fleeting colonial visit. It is ironic that the best-known Australian spring water in 2018 comes from the same mountain that has no spring or natural water source within the Mount Franklin Reserve other than off the roof of the public toilet,


I also contend that our ways of better understanding the local and regional nations. languages, peoples and environments, such as through a renewed interest in Indigenous foods and plants, as well as through improved land management through Catchment Management Authorities, Aboriginal organisations, Landcare and Bushcare help us not only better understand what knowledge was lost, but enhance what there is to protect and regain. Not surprisingly, the longer we live in one place or district and the more sensitised we get to reading and managing the land, the more indigenous (with a small ‘i’) we become. It is interesting that over recent decades the configuration and size of many amalgamated and restructured local government areas across Victoria has begun to resemble some pre-contact Aboriginal national boundaries, divided as now by natural catchment and river boundaries.

In some cases we can only imagine what was lost including in the open (now potato) country towards the top of the Great Dividing Range. This area’s deep and well-watered volcanic soils – until the start of the gold rushes in the 1850s around Dean and Mollongghip – supported some of the grandest stands of trees in Victoria. By the end of the same century they were virtually gone: for building, fuel and pit props for the mines and associated industries

To give some idea of the nature of such missing forests, and particularly the irony associated with their loss, the small patch of tall timber on basaltic substrate topping Wombat Hill above Daylesford was cleared for the present day Botanical Gardens – on the 60 acre ‘police paddock’ reserved for that purpose in 1860. The Daylesford Council minutes on 21 May 1863 record that the initial beginnings of the present day botanical gardens in Wombat Hill were observed: when two young oaks’ were planted ‘… to commemorate the Wedding of King Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandria. A bonfire consisting [of] 20 of the largest trees that grew on the hill amounting to 1000 tons of wood was lit.’ Prior to the clearing of the hill, huge gum trees reputedly up to 20ft [6m] in diameter grew on the hill and wombat burrows were numerous amongst their roots. Today the trees regarded of national heritage significance on the hill include Californian redwoods and Bhutanese pine trees.


My main conclusion is that local heritage has many layers, and that understanding the first Aboriginal layer is essential to understanding the many other heritage layers. Pastoralism, timber and gold in the footprint of the current Hepburn Shire have impacted hugely on Dja Dja Wurrung people and environment. What we classify and value today as heritage will continue to change as community knowledge about what happened here in the contact period changes. Large and significant collections of Aboriginal artefacts at SMB in Ballarat were discarded during the 1950s when local authorities lost interest in them. It is only recently that the many layers of mining, forestry, built and natural heritage in our region have come to be mapped, valued, restored and interpreted. It heartening that in 2018 there is finally an appetite for swapping stories about Dja Dja Wurrung associations and people, both past and present, that have for too long ignored or denied.

There are thousands of pre-contact Aboriginal sites across the region – most of which are found on the more fertile plains and volcanic remnants outside of the forested areas where, as now, living off the land was most productive. Based on the demographic evidence outlined in Noel Butlin’s book, Our original aggression, the volcanic grasslands in the north of the Hepburn Shire supported one of the highest pre-contact Aboriginal population densities in inland Australia, at least until several waves of smallpox (that preceded Mitchell’s contact in 1789 and 1830) apparently reduced them to the relatively low densities observed at the time of pastoralist invasion.

Whilst it in important for our past to be interpreted, the desire publicise heritage in all its forms needs to tempered by the need also to respect the rights and privacy of the traditional owners as well as the current title and land-holders. There are many instances in Australia where exposing sites to tourism – without proper consultation and safeguards – has resulted in loss and damage to the very thing people came to see and experience. It is important that we respect other people’s special places as we expect others to respect ours. It is important always to recall that most non-Indigenous Australians came here as refugees of one sort or another. We owe it to the first Australians – in 2018 and beyond – to work collaboratively to put right whatever we can – and particularly to create new, more inclusive and more sustainable communities and cultures. Working together with communities on a Reconciliation Action Plan is but one way.

[1] These include Early days in the Loddon Valley (1996) and Frontier life in the Loddon Protectorate (1967).

[2] Summarised from Rhodes, D (1995) An historical and archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve, Occasional Report No. 6, Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria.

[3]Lalgambook to the Djadjawurrung, later named Mount Franklin after the visit to the area of the former Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin in December 1843.

[4] Gott, B, 1983, Murnong- Microseris scapigera: a study of a staple food of Victorian Aborigines, Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1983-2, pp.2-18.

[5] Best, L, Sinclair, R and Alexander, P (Eds.) (1986) Proceedings of public meeting to discuss ‘Long-billed corella management and crop damage’, Narracoorte, SA.

‘Ellen’s Walk for Reconciliation’, July 2018 Notes

Ellen’s Walk For Reconciliation

The following notes were provided via the EventBrite site to all pre-registered Walk participants on 15 July 2018. They are being made available more widely post the event to those interested who were not able to participate, or who registered on the day.

NAIDOC Week Public Walk: Mount Franklin to Clarke’s Pool, Franklinford

Presented by the Shire of Hepburn, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation & Great Dividing Trail Association, Sun 15 July 2018, 9am-2.30pm


We acknowledge the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation whose traditional lands we walk on, including their elders past and present.


Thank you for joining this 2018 NAIDOC Week event, Ellen’s Walk for Reconciliation. The NAIDOC theme for 2018 is “Because of her we can’, celebrating the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (including Ellen) have made – and continue to make – to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation. In 2018 we are focusing on reconciliation in the Hepburn Shire, including the role of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate originally based in the area around present day Franklinford.


This and other Hepburn Shire RAP (Reconciliation Action Program) activities aim to lead to a better understanding of, and reconciliation between the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who now live in and beyond the footprint of the current Hepburn Shire.

While this walk concentrates on many confronting things that happened locally in the three tumultuous decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836, it acknowledges and celebrates that around 2,000 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants have survived and are also keen to share and learn about our shared history.

Sincere thanks to:

  • Hepburn Shire Council, staff, Community RAP Committee & Coordinators.
  • Uncle Ricky Nelson for the traditional Welcome to Country.
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
  • Great Dividing Trail Association and members.
  • Parks Victoria
  • all others who have contributed or volunteered in any capacity.


All walkers must be registered at the start and wear the participant identification provided. The $5 donation requested goes towards the cost of the walk organization: half goes as a donation to the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.

Approximate Walk Schedule (# explanation points: themes)

  • Before 9.15am: Registration in the crater, Mt Franklin Reserve.
  • 15am: ‘Welcome to Country’ in the Crater by Uncle Ricky Nelson.
  • 30am: Brief Welcome by Shire Mayor, John Cottrell, and short safety briefing before the walk to #1 Top of Mount Franklin: Country and People pre-1836 Optional: if you want to avoid a steep climb … but miss the explanation and great views!).
  • 00am: walk down along the crater rim road (View towards Kooroocheang # 2: Early Squatting and initial Protectorate at Nerreman 1838-1841), then out of the crater.
  • 30am: Cross Midland Highway: TAKE EXTREME CARE.
  • 00am: top of Carroll’s Lane # 3 Loddon Protectorate story 1841-49.
  • 30am: Morning tea, Carroll’s Lane.
  • 00 midday: Old Mill Stream on Hepburn Franklinford Road: # 4 Protectorate Era Flour Mill.
  • 30am: # 5 Aboriginal School, Ellen’s story, closure and removal to Coranderrk (previous Protectorate Main Site) South Street, Franklinford.
  • 00pm Franklinford Cemetery # 6 Original Protectorate Cemetery.
  • 30pm: walk past the original ‘Franklin Ford’ to BYO lunch at Clarke’s Pool Franklinford Streamside Reserve.
  • From 2.00-3.00pm: Transport provided for drivers only back to cars at the crater (two trips), who will return to Clarke’s Pool for any passengers: we suggest via Powell Connection (bitumen) Road.


 The toilets are few and limited to:

  • at the start in the Mt Franklin crater
  • a Portable Toilet provided approximately half way (near where we will have BYO morning tea) on Carroll’s Lane.
  • the Franklinford Cemetery
  • there are also trees in places along the way …


Once we depart the Mt Franklin Crater we are walking on or beside public roads. Please follow the instructions of Walk Marshalls (wearing bright vests). When on bitumen roads please keep to the LEFT side of the road, giving way to car and other traffic. The walkers will likely form into three groups: faster, medium, and slower). Take particular care and follow instructions when crossing the Midland Highway.

Take care walking on the loose surface of the scoria road down from Mt Franklin, and well as on steeper parts of Carroll’s Lane.

Where do we walk?

We walk 12km from the top of Lalgambook / Mount Franklin through important and fascinating parts of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate (and later Aboriginal Station) 330 metres down hill to Clarkes Pool on the nearby Jim Crow Creek (see note p.10, below).

The intention is to enable local people to walk and learn the story of Dja Dja Wurrung people in the footprint of the current Shire of Hepburn in the three tumultuous decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836.

Why do we walk here?

Mount Franklin (Lalgambook, also called Lalgam-burrk or Laldjam-burrp) is a remarkable volcanic crater close to the south end of Dja Dja Wurrung country. Its beauty, resources and surroundings have drawn people for thousands of generations. (A detailed history of Mt Franklin is provided below, pages 9-10).

Our walk from the crater along roadsides through the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate through present day Franklinford enables the story to be told of what happened in this landscape from the 1830s, including to Ellen, her family and also to the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples.

It is notable that we undertake this walk with some of the 2,500 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants who have survived to celebrate NAIDOC week and the ongoing important roles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women play in Australia in 2018.

NOTES: The extra notes that follow (written by Barry Golding) are based on available written historical sources, with a brief Reference list at the end.

Who was Ellen?

Ellen was a Dja Dja Wurrung woman who was born at the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate in 1849, the daughter of Yerrebulluk (Dicky) and Brebie (Eliza). She was taught to read, write and do needlework at the Aboriginal school.

When the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria married in 1863 the Dja Dja Wurrung people sent the Queen two letters written by Ellen and a collar she had crocheted.

The Queen replied with her thanks, particularly asking Ellen to make it known to her people that she was concerned for their welfare. The Queen’s concern was warranted. Twenty-five years of contact with white people had already led, directly and indirectly, to the death of large numbers of the Dja Dja Wurrung people across central Victoria.

Ellen was removed, with six other Aboriginal children and five adults (including her mother, Eliza) when the Aboriginal Station at Franklinford closed, to the new reserve at Coranderrk, near present day Healesville, in April 1864. Ellen herself died in 1874 at the age of 35, following the deaths of her three children from tuberculosis.

Ellen’s life as well the lives of her parents is illustrative of many of the tumultuous changes that occurred to the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation and peoples in the three decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836.

Walk participants will receive more information about the history of the area and the Protectorate at six scheduled stops during the walk.

The explanations at our stops along the way highlight:

  • The way volcanoes and basalt flows shaped the local landscapes.
  • The notion of ‘contact’.
  • The local Dja Dja Wurrung Nation and Clans.
  • The initial contact period and arrival of overlanders and squatters, 1838-1841.
  • The Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate 1841-1849, and role of E. S. Parker.
  • Post-Protectorate era, 1850-64
  • Removal of most remaining people to Coranderrk, 1864
  • Survival of Aboriginal Nations, the continuing legacy of successive Stolen Generations, Missions and Central Stations from 1865, Children’s Homes in Ballarat and Bendigo to the 1970s.

The volcanoes

 The ‘Newer Volcanics’ erupted from over 100 eruption points including Mount Franklin crater as recently as half a million years locally.

  • The basalt flows filled most large valleys (covering their gold bearing gravels).
  • Soils developed on the basalt, systematically burnt and maintained as grasslands over millennia by Aboriginal people, since exploited for agriculture.
  • Many of the eruption points like Mt Franklin are scoria cones or lava hills that form prominent features on the now cleared basalt plains.
  • ‘Tuff rings’ form low relief hills on the volcanic plains, containing swamp deposits or lakes in the craters, with rich aquatic food resources.
  • Wherever there is no basalt the rocks are very old tightly folded sedimentary shales and mudstones, weathering to very poor soils and generally unsuitable for agriculture (therefore still mostly forested).
  • Granite peaks protrude through the bedrock to the north, including Mt Beckworth, Mt Tarrengower and Leanganook (Mt Alexander), and in the distance other peaks including Mt Kooyora. Again, the peaks are rocky and generally not suitable for agriculture.

‘Sovereignty … assumed over their Ancient Possessions’:

 The Aboriginal Protectorate System

… which the North West Protectorate (1840-1849) and Loddon Aboriginal Station (1853-1864) in the Mount Franklin area formed part of …

  •  Was set up as a result of a British Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples during 1837. Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State was one of the chief initiators of schemes to protect the inhabitants of British colonies, and ordered that the protectorate be confined to the Port Phillip District (then part of NSW).
  • The underlying basis of the Protectorate lay in the refusal of the British Government to recognize prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal people. In effect Aboriginal people were regarded as being under British sovereignty from the outset (though with almost no legal or constitutional rights). The Protectorate system was a gratuitous offer of ‘protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over their Ancient Possessions.’ [Glenelg to Bourke, 1837].
  • The idea was hatched at a time of increased hostility and conflict between invading European settlers and the Aboriginal traditional owners. The instigation of the Protectorate was widely and sometimes savagely criticized by the popular press.
  • Four Assistant Protectors were appointed in Britain in December 1837 (Thomas, Seivwright, Dredge and E. S. Parker). Edward Stone Parker had been a Wesleyan minister and teacher. None had any prior experience of Aboriginal people.
  • The Chief Protector George Augustus Robinson, most recently from the Flinders Island Aboriginal Station, was appointed Chief Protector in Port Philip. He had played a pivotal role in the previous decade in ‘successfully’ coercing and removing Indigenous Tasmanians from several Nations to Flinders Island to be Christianised and civilized, and out of harm’s way from other recent invaders of their lands. The Protectorate system was a variation on the previous tragic theme.
  • The stated aim of the Protectors was to ‘… watch over the rights and interest of the natives and endeavour to gain their respect and confidence … protect them from any encroachments on their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice’.
  • The Assistant Protector’s specific brief was to attach themselves to the tribes of the District (in Parker’s case, the area about Mount Macedon ‘and the country to the northward’) until they could be persuaded to settle in one location. Once ‘settled’ they were to be taught European agricultural, technological, social and religious practices.
  • It was assumed that the Assistant Protectors would learn Aboriginal language and customs but achieve their aims by moral and religious (Christian) instruction.
  • All Assistant Protectors arrived in Sydney in August 1838 and in Melbourne in January 1839. Parker left Melbourne in August 1839 but proceeded only as far as Jackson’s Creek near Sunbury where he built a hut for his young family.
  • By 1843 the Protectorate system was in disarray: hampered by colonial bureaucracy, a legal system that gave Indigenous people minimal rights and violent and often deadly hostility between squatters and Aborigines. It was, in part, Parker’s favourable reports on the Loddon River Protectorate Station in 1843 and also in 1845, which saved the Protectorate system, at least until a NSW Parliamentary Select Committee recommended its abolishment in 1849.

Temporary compensation for declaring terra nullius ….

Brief settlement at Neereman near present day Baringhup, and later selection of the ‘Jim Crow’ (= Mount Franklin) site

  • Parker briefly occupied a site at Neereman (on the Loddon River downstream of Baringhup and upstream of O’Brien’s Crossing) from Nov 1840 to June 1841.
  • Parker noted in 1840 that ‘I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of Aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance’.
  • Each Assistant Protector was to create an inner reserve of one square mile for cultivation purposes and a station, and an outer reserve of five miles in radius for ‘the hunting ground of the natives’, with no squatters stations and as far as possible from the major lines of communication’.
  • In June 1840 Parker was asked to set up a proposed reserve on the Loddon River ‘near a hill called by the natives Tarrengower’.
  • Though the site was already occupied and the reserve was disputed by squatters Dutton and Darlot, by February 1840 twelve permanent Aboriginal dwellings had been built at Neereman.
  • For a range of reasons, including the Neereman’s perceived unsuitability for agriculture, a new site was decided on: ‘… an old sheep station of Mr Mollison’s called Jim Crow Hill’ (also anglicised to Jumcra. (Jim Crow was a derogatory term for African Americans. Mt Franklin was referred to as Jim Crow Hill by John Hepburn in his 1841 diaries, Lalgambook by the Dja Dja Wurrung people and Salus by Major Mitchell).

 A brief history of the Protectorate at Franklinford:

Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station 1841-1849

  • Located at Larnebarramul (‘House of the Emu’) near Lalgambook, later named Mount Franklin after the visit to the area of the former Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin in December 1843).
  • At the time of the Station’s establishment the land was owned by the Gunangara ginditj clan of the Dja Dja Wurrrung Aboriginal Nation, though occupied by Mollison, one of the invading squatters.
  • The boundary of the reserve around the Protectorate Station was proclaimed by Governor Gipps in 1840. The original cemetery boundaries (now contained within the later Franklinford Cemetery) were surveyed by Howe in June 1848.


  • ‘Following abolition of the Protectorate in 1849, Parker applied for and was granted a Pastoral License to the Protectorate Reserve under an arrangement with [Governor] La Trobe.’
  • Parker was ‘… allowed to depasture his own stock and cultivate sections of the land for his own use and that of the Aboriginal School, subject to him giving ‘… employment, both pastoral and agricultural, as far as possible, to the Aboriginal natives.’
  • By 1854 the Aboriginal Protectorate had been dissolved and all that remained were an enclosed paddock which continued to be used as an Aboriginal School (closed by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1864, and the remaining four Aboriginal adults and six children moved to Coranderrk near present day Healesville), some of the outlying huts and a stockyard.
  • The Township of Franklinford was subdivided in 1858-59. The other sections of the former Protectorate Reserve were increasingly taken up by miners’ rights and land sales during the 1850s.
  • The Aboriginal people who were forcibly moved from Mt Franklin to Coranderrk in 1864 died within 12 years except Beernbannin who live until 1880. Alienation from their land and insanitary conditions at Corankerrk were among the major causes of death. Dja Dja Wurrung descendants have survived through the family of Thomas Dunolly (1856-1923) who was brought to Coranderrk from Mt Franklin in 1863.
  • There are as many as 30 apical ancestors from whom around 2,500 present day Dja Dja Wurrung people have descended.
  • Thomas Dunolly’s daughter, Ivy Sampson visited Mount Franklin and was photographed in Franklinford at the Aboriginal School site in Edgar Morrison’s booklets, published in Daylesford during the 1960s and 1970s. Ivy Sampson died in the 1980s.
  • A Corroboree took place near the top of Leanganook (Mt Alexander) as part of the Black Gold Conference in 2005, facilitated by a range of Victorian Aboriginal organisations through Parks Victoria that included Dja Dja Wurrung descendants.

Tommy Farmer

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.69) records that Thomas Farmer, who ‘had been ‘brought up by white people’, was transferred from Neereman to Lan-ne barramul (present day Franklinford). While there he cleared land and fenced it, erected residences, borrowed a plough and cultivated 21 acres of land with wheat, which he carted to Castlemaine to be ground into flour.

In 1853 Mr Parker transferred from the old [Aboriginal] Station site to his new residence on the western slopes of Mount Franklin, having been granted a pastoral lease on the former Reserve. …

In 1859 Parker recorded that:

…two [Aboriginal] families old land under the authority of the Government; they have been farming on their own account since the year 1852. They were the first youths I induced to say with me in the earliest periods of my experience as Assistant Protector of Aborigines.

Farmer married his first wife, Nora at ‘Jim Crow’: she died in the Castlemaine Hospital. After transfer to Coranderrk (near Healesville) in 1864, Thomas remarried (Maggie) and died there in 1880.

The Old Mill Spring (that we walk past)

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.48) records that:

In the horse and buggy day … each Boxing Day a group of neighbours of all ages from Franklinford and Yandoit would congregate at the old Mill Spring about half way between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat [under] … the spreading willow trees that grew nearby. Near by a strong flow of crystal clear water issued from the hillside, forming a pool fringed with watercress. From thence, the water gurgled down the grassy slope before plunging into the Jim Crow Creek about 20 chains to the westward. … Since the earliest colonial days it has borne the name Mill Spring. A generation ago the older citizens could remember carting wheat to an old Flour Mill, the wheel of which was operated by water from a race branching northward from the Mills Spring stream. … Fragments of the water-wheel are still discernable as well as a few crumbling walls of the mill itself. Yet before that structure was built, the spring had long borne its present name. … Gabriel Henderson (1854-1944) … attributed the name to the fact that ‘a small flour mill, operated by a water wheel was erected there by Mr Parker when he first came to the district’. An early survey map corroborates Mr Henderson’s statement. A position southward of the natural watercourse is defined as “Ruins of an old Mill”. At this time (1843-44 they used to grow wheat in what they called the Swamp Paddock – and ground it somewhere nearby. … One wonders what became of the two steel hand mills {Parker] had brought up from Melbourne in 1840. It is tempting to wonder whether the small flour mill erected on the Mill Spring race was in fact a combination of the old hand mills. …

In summary

  • The history of Aboriginal stations at Franklinford spans 23 years between 1841-1864.
  • There were two Aboriginal Stations: one, the Aboriginal Protectorate at Franklinford 1841-1849; a later one The Mount Franklin Station from 1853 at the base of Mt Franklin.
  • It was administered by three government organisations (the Aboriginal Protectorate 1839-49; the Office of the Guardian of Aborigines (1850-59 and the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1860-1870).
  • Most of the voluminous Protectorate records are preserved in State and National archives.

Dja Dja Wurrung

Originally consisted of around 20 clans sharing the same wurrung (speech name) with a degree of political and economic association.

form part of a larger group of clans sharing religious and social ties. The Kulin have two moieties: bunjil (eaglehawk) and waa (crow)

  • the traditional owners of land in Central Victoria between Kyneton, Creswick, Boort, Donald and the Pyrenees.
  • Parker’s Loddon Protectorate census of 1841 listed 282 Aboriginal people. This number was far from ‘pre-contact’ as a consequence of well documented conflict with Europeans, deliberate killing, post-contact European diseases and evidence of one or more major smallpox epidemics which originated and were spread from the vicinity of Sydney soon after the arrival of the First Fleet.
  • Important elements of Dja Dju Wurrung culture and people survive today in cities, towns and communities of central Victoria, including in Castlemaine and Bendigo.

Mt Franklin History

The mountain was created by a volcanic eruption about 470,000 years ago. It is fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach in the south-eastern rim (through which the road now enters the crater) was caused by lava flow breaking through the rim. The caldera is one of the deepest in the central highlands area. Earlier flows extend to the north and west. The coarse ‘ejecta’ exposed around the summit includes red and green olivine and shiny crystals of (white) orthoclase and (black) augite Lumps of Ordovician sedimentary and granitic bedrock. On the western slope is the parasitic scoria mound known as “Lady Franklin”.

Some volcanic eruptions (though likely not this one) would have been witnessed by members of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation who called this country the ‘smoking grounds’. The clan that occupied the country around Mount Franklin were the Gunangara Gundidj who called it Lalgambook. Mount Franklin and the surrounding area is a place of considerable religious significance to Aboriginal people. Ethnographical, archaeological and historic evidence indicates that frequent large ceremonial gatherings took place in the area. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

Reports from Major Thomas Mitchell’s third (1836) expedition took him as close as Guildford and Newstead. He reported ‘fertile land waiting to be claimed’ prompting a minor rush by squatters including John Hepburn, who called the mount “Jim Crow Hill”. Charles Joseph La Trobe, superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales named the mountain after Sir John Franklin after they climbed the hill together in December 1843. (Franklin had been Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania] from 1837 to early 1843 when he was removed from office). The Franklin River in Tasmania also bears his name. During 1843 Franklin visited Victoria. Franklin disappeared on his last expedition, attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The icebound ships were abandoned and the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy. He was last seen by Europeans on 26 July 1845: a note recovered in 1851 confirm he died on 11 June 1847.

During the Aboriginal Protectorate era (1842-9), the Mountain was within the five mile reserve radius.

In 1866, the crater of Mount Franklin was set aside as a recreation reserve, and the remainder reserved as State forest. Owing to the high demand for land in the district, two areas of the reserve were excised and sold for agricultural settlement. This galvanised popular support for the permanent reservation of Mount Franklin.

During the 1870s and 80s, scenic qualities of natural bushland gained popularity as recreational venues as compared to formal parks and gardens. In 1875, a meeting asked the Victorian government to reserve all the land at Mount Franklin for public purposes and a reservation of 157 acres was gazetted the following year under shared management of the surrounding local government areas. In 1891 the Shire of Mount Franklin was given sole control of the reserve.

From the 1880s, parts of the reserve were being leased for grazing, providing much-needed revenue for the committee of management. By the 1920s, rabbit infestation was a major problem. Nevertheless, during this period the crater was still a popular destination for picnickers and pleasure-seekers. Mount Franklin was promoted as a local beauty spot within easy reach of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs mineral springs resort. A shelter shed and rainwater tank were erected.

In 1944, a devastating wildfire destroyed most of the native vegetation on the mount. As a result, the inner and outer slopes of the crater were planted with exotic species, mainly conifers, to prevent erosion and to provide revenue through commercial harvesting. The caldera was planted with ornamentals such as silver birch, white poplar, sycamore and Sequoia sempervirens (Californian Redwoods).

Not everyone approved of the scheme. The late Edgar Morrison from Franklinford remarked on Mount Franklin’s “pine-clad heights”: “One feels that when the Forest Commission, a generation ago, draped this foreign garb around its shoulders, the old mount …. resented the indignity.”

‘Jim Crow’ Creek

Our walk finishes at what is currently called ‘Jim Crow Creek.’ The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States, at state and local levels, and which continued in force until 1965, which mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy. The separation in practice led to conditions for African Americans that were inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. These Jim Crow laws followed the 1800–1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans with no pretence of equality. Jim Crow was the derogatory name for a black person at the time. Lalgambook / Mt Franklin (called ‘Salus’ by Major Mitchell, after the ancient Roman God of health and prosperity) was dubbed ‘Jim Crow’ by John Hepburn in 1841, perhaps anglicised from Mollison’s outstation in the area, briefly called ‘Jumcra’. The derogatory connotation of the term Jim Crow is a good reason to consider its future renaming, as has recently been done to a similarly named mountain near Rockhampton.

Some Useful References

Attwood, B. (2017) The Good Country: The Dja Dja Wurrung, the Settlers and the Protectors. Monash University Publishing, Clayton.

Clarke, I. D. (Ed.) (1998) The Journals of George Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector, Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate, Volume 1: 1 January 1839 – 30 September 1840. Heritage Matters, Melbourne. (pp.163-185 in Robinson’s diary of 11 to 29 February, 1840 was within southern Dja Dja Wurrung country).

DDWCAC: Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (2014a) Families of Dja Dja Wurrung, with Jessica Hodgens, Djuwima-Djarra: Sharing Together: Dja Dja Wurrung : Our Story. DDWCAC, Bendigo.

DDWCAC: Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (2014b) Dhelkunya Dja: Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan 2014-2034,

Haw, P. & Munro, M. (2010) Footprints Across the Loddon Plains: A Shared History. Boort Development Incorporated, Boort.

Morrison, E. (1965) Early Days in the Loddon Valley: Memoirs of Edward Stone Parker 1802-1865. Yandoit.

Morrison, E. (1967) Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate: Episodes from Early Days, 1837-1842. Yandoit.

Morrison, E. (1971) The Loddon Aborigines: “Tales of Old Jim Crow”. Abco Print, Daylesford.

PROV: Public Records Office, Victoria (1983) Victorian Aborigines 1835-1901: A Resource Guide to the Holdings of the Public Records Office. PROV, Victoria.

Quinlan, L. M. (1967) Here my Home: The Life and Times of John Stuart Hepburn 1803-1860, Master Mariner, Overlander, Founder of Smeaton Hill, Victoria. Oxford University Press, London.

Rhodes, D. (1985) An Historical and Archaeological Investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve, Occasional Report No. 46, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.

Tully, J. (1997) DjaDja Wurrung Language of Central Victoria, including place names. Australian Print Group, Maryborough.


International Men’s Shed Update, August 2017

Barry Golding, as International Men’s Sheds Organisation Convenor 

When my book, The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men *** was published in the US two years ago (in 2015) there were 1,325 Men’s Sheds globally, 30 per cent of which were overseas, mainly in Ireland (227), the UK (124) and New Zealand (54).

The first ever Men’s Sheds in a community setting opened less then 20 years ago (in Tongala, Victoria and Lane Cove, NSW in 1998). Given that the global total is (to August 2017) approximately 2,000 Sheds open and operating globally, with more than half of these open outside of Australia, this is becoming a remarkable international movement across at least ten countries.

Maps are available which show the up to date distribution of Men’s Sheds registered with each National Association in:

State-based Men’s Sheds organisations as well as Zones and Clusters operate within all Australian states as well as through the national Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA: ). The 2017 AMSA Conference takes place on the Gold Coast (29 Sept -1 Oct) – only 12 years since the first ever ‘national’ gathering in Orbost, Victoria in 2005.

Since 2015 the most rapid, new growth has been across the UK. There are now at least 415 Men’s Sheds open across the UK, with particularly strong growth in many rural areas, particularly in Scotland and Wales. Scotland has its own, robust national association The UK Men’s Sheds Association anticipates around 800 Men’s Sheds will be open there within three years (by 2020).

By August  2017 the total number of Men’s Sheds open  across the island of Ireland, including those in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, passed 400. The island now has a higher number of Sheds per head of population than in Australia, where the movement originated. It is not only the number of Irish Sheds that is remarkable. It is the incredible diversity of Irish Shed models suited to the specific and different community needs that is remarkable, supported by an innovative and very robust Irish Men’s Sheds Assocation.

As in Australia, the strongest Shed development in most countries has been in smaller, rural towns where there are more older men looking for ‘somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk with’ in the company of other men, as the late Dick McGowan originally envisaged in Tongala, Victoria exactly 20 years ago.

The three Men’s Sheds recently opened in the US (in Hawaii, Minnesota and Michigan) have recently created the USMSA ( Seventeen Sheds affiliated with the Canadian Men’s Sheds Association ( are now open across Canada with others soon to open in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Eight grassroots Men’s Sheds are now open in Kenya (in Kiambu and Nakura Counties). There are many ‘Sheds’ networked across Denmark under the Mænds Mødesteder (literally ‘men’s meeting places’) banner as a men’s health intervention. Several Men’s Sheds (Męskiej Szopy) have very recently opened also in Poland.

If there any new developments that I may have missed, please let Barry Golding know!

Acknowledgement: Considerable progress was made documenting and supporting the international spread of the Men’s Shed movement in 2015-6 through the generous financial support of AMSA in Australia and IMSA in Ireland, directed through the great work of John Evoy as  IMSO Project Officer under the direction of the International Men’s Sheds Organisation (IMSO) steering committee. 

*** Getting a copy of the ‘Men’s Shed Movement’ Book

  • The 2015 Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book is available for direct purchase in Australia through me for $40 (including postage and GST).
  • Elsewhere in the world you can order a copy via the Common Ground Publishing website: US$15 for an electronic (PDF) copy, US$25 for a hard copy, with postage extra: see

Sheds Without Borders, Belfast 2016, Conference Summary, Barry Golding

  • Belfast,  Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA) Celebration, 22 Oct 2016

Sheds Without Borders, Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, Federation University Australia and AMSA Patron

Notes made as a Critical Friend of the Conference
* external links to resources, presenters and presentation topics in bold

The notes below summarise, from Barry Golding’s perspective, most of the key points and quotes coming out of the one day Belfast Conference. It was attended by around 400 participants, mostly shedders from across the island of Ireland but including representatives from elsewhere in the UK including Scotland and Wales, Australia, Sweden, Canada and Kenya.

The atmosphere was exceptionally positive. The program was, appropriately, centred on the participants as shedders. The iconic and beautiful venue, the Belfast City Hall provided a grand backdrop. As someone said early on this was ‘a grand Shed’.

The atmosphere, enthusiasm and grand setting reminded me very much of the 2007 Manly, Australia Australia Conference, at a similar relatively early stage of development of the Movement and the national Association. While perhaps 95 per cent of the participants were men, women were made overtly welcome, and were recognised for their critical support for and encouragement of the Movement globally

Mairead Lavery, Event MC provided a really important role through her skilled and understanding MCing of the event. Mairead not only carefully welcome and introduced everybody but pulled out key points after each person presented.

The professionalism of the organisation was evident. It all ran to time, there were no hitches and the choice of presenters and sequencing worked very well. The work of Barry Sheridan and his small IMSA  team and Board , particularly buttressed by the unflappable Eva Beire  made the event an enjoyable and inspirational celebratory event.

The participants showed particular appreciation by applause, in the case of Shane Martin’s exceptional and inspirational talk by a standing ovation. The Flowerdale Men’s Shed Choir and the MC were also afforded this great sign of appreciation.

All in all, a fine day and event that will greatly consolidate and extend the already remarkable achievement of IMSA working across borders, across the whole Island of Ireland and internationally. All shedders as well as international guests, including myself, experienced an incredible welcome and huge support for getting there and actively participating. Well done to IMSA!


Helen McEntee, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Northern Ireland

Men face many challenges, particularly the stigma associated with mental health and ageing.

We now know we all have ‘mental health’ but we have no firm idea about how it impacts on us. And we are reluctant to talk about mental health as well as ageing.

We know the population is ageing, and we know people are living longer.

We know men don’t open up as readily and this impacts on their mental health.

I applaud the work you are doing. You, the shedders are the people who are doing this work. You have something quite different here.

Men’s sheds are about making sure social isolation does not go too far. We will work with Barry Sheridan and IMSA, since the work is valuable. This is SO important.

Barry Sheridan IMSA CEO

What we are doing is worthwhile and of benefit to the community.

This is historic day, largest Men’s Shed gathering in the world this year.

Thank you to all IMSA founders and sponsors.

Where did it all begin? Only five years ago in Ireland, today 350 sheds. 89 sheds opened in the past 12 months, now largest men’s network in Ireland. No other organisation like it.

Huge organic growth. Places for men to go and gather. Places we can all find friendship and belonging.

Same welcome and evidence of same ethos anywhere in the world.

Working towards sustainability of Mens Sheds across Ireland, to support sheds and their communities.

We have three staff for 350. We need more resources to support your sheds.

50 sheds in Northern Ireland which huge, down to the work of Groundworks and Public Health agency (HSC).

The support for Sheds is critically important. These are documented in *Barry Sheridan’s PowerPoint.

The first national health and wellbeing program for IMSA is being rolled out.

*See IMSA future, strategic plan 2017-2020.

*IMSA Video
Barry Golding, Keynote Address, see * *Belfast Conference blog
Shane Martin, Your precious life: how to live it well.

The things that matter most are the things we do least about.

You only live this life once. Everyone in this world is entitled to the best possible life

Many people are just a passenger on the train of life.

What four things matter:


People only worry about both when they lose them.

I’m more interested (as a psychologist) in the people who don’t come to me than the people who do. There have been very few studies of such people.

3. MONEY? Can take your health away if you don’t have enough, but once you have enough happiness is unrelated to wealth.


Happier people live longer

Three realities:
1. We are all vulnerable
2. We will all face challenges or crises
3. We underestimate our potential to cope with crisis.

Several tips:

The way we think colours our mood.

The clinical benefits of kind acts
Putting our own problems in a better context.
Don’t self blame or over analyse

Helplessness is when you give reasons for not succeeding
Failures are temporary setbacks

There is an epidemic of loneliness
As you grow older you need more people in your lives
Be social, stay social, keep friends

Count your blessings

Learn from the past but move on

Do more of the things you enjoy doing




* Moodwatchers web site has the PowerPoint slides see

Click to access SLIDES.pdf

Very simple things lie at the heart of the things we crave.

Shane received a standing ovation. This presentation was for most shedders, a highlight of the Conference .

Brian Kingston, Lord Mayor Belfast


We are now making up for lost time for what happened here until recently in Belfast.

Tourism levels in Belfast are at record levels.

We want Belfast to be a caring and compassionate city.

Men’s Sheds have grown in Belfast, we work with them in partnerships and with community outreach teams.

This Movement is still in the early stages and commend you on your part.


Involving group exercises.

Launch of the IMSA partnership with the Irish Farmers Journal, Mairead Lavery.


Operates as a legal trust, to promote the wellbeing of farmers across Ireland.

Providing one page a week to the Men’s Sheds. Available both in print and online.

247,000 weekly readers.

Providing an opportunity for Men’s Sheds to contribute a page.

Darren Ryan, CEO Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Great to see how far the Men’s Shed Movement has come.

Social entrepreneur is someone who sees the problems and challenges, but who sets about changing that, transforming the way we solve problems.

People closest to the problems are the best people to do things and bring about change.

Examples, eg SEIL Bleu, working with food waste to ensure it goes to social charities, men’s sheds.

What excites me is how we can use this Men’s Shed network to spread great ideas and spread rapidly. Lots of potential for social antrepreneurs.
Official launch of ‘Sheds for Life’, IMSAs new health and wellbeing initiative. Dr Noel Richardson, Carlow IT and Edel Byrne, Program Coordinator IMSA.

Noel Richardson:

National Men’s Health Policy (NMHP) Context

2009 Dept of Health, 2009, p.61, ‘through positive and therapeutic informal activities Men’s sheds, achieve outcomes of positive health, happiness and wellbeing’

This is not about making men’s sheds health centres.

A lot of this is about addressing disconnection and isolation.

No surprise there has been an upshoot of Mens Sheds across Ireland

Some research was done by Lefkowich and Richardson 2016.

Sheds involve solidarity, camararaderie, confidentiality and compassion

Edel Byrne:

Referred to Lucia Carragher’s research from 2013, see:

Fitness, gardens, cooking, health checks, upskilling in life skills all part of the value of Men’s Sheds.

‘Sheds for life’ gives choice to Sheds and shedders to seek support for their physical and mental wellbeing

Emphasis on staying well.
See* on AMSA website.

‘Spanner in the Works’ to be adapted for IMSA website, Men’s Health resource in every shed, calendar of events, support, advice.

Not about what to do but what CAN be done.

David Helmers AMSA and Barry Sheridan IMSA

Spoke about an insurance plan option, group scheme, via AMSA, pro rata per shedders.

Insurer has approved it as a global policy, including product, public liability, personal injury, directors insurance.

An alternative insurance policy for sheds.

Panel discussion

Involving John Evoy, Barry Golding, David Helmers, Lucia Carragher, Bill Lockhart with questions via Mairaid

No notes taken by Barry Golding.

Photography Competion Results announced

Presentation to George Kelly for valued Chairmanship of IMSA, by Barry Golding

Flowerdale Men’s Shed choir, from Australia

Received a standing ovation.


Belfast Men’s Shed IMSA Conference keynote 2016

Belfast Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA) Celebration,

22 Oct 2016

Sheds Without Borders, Barry Golding, Keynote address

Thank sincerely to Mairaid Labery for the generous introduction, and to IMSA for the opportunity to present on this important topic. The partnership with the Farmers Journal across Ireland I think is a great and positive.

I firstly acknowledge the work YOU, the shedders and the work you have all done. The works of Barry Sheridan and his small but powerful team have also done a great job getting us all here.

I also acknowledge and particularly thank:

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People (ROI), Helen McAntee for her wise words, understanding and support for this event and the Movement in Ireland.

Belfast City Council for use of City Hall Shed. Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston will join us this afternoon.

Ted Donnelly, the widely respected father of Men’s Sheds and instrumental with David Helmers, also amongst us today, getting the national movement on a firm footing in Australia.

John Evoy, who kicked the Movement a long way along the road in Ireland and more recently internationally for IMSO, the International Men’s Sheds Organisation,, and who in 2015 became the ‘Ted Donnelly Award’ recipient for his outstanding contribution to the Men’s Shed Movement.

I acknowledge we have people from eight nations represented here today, from right across Ireland, all parts of the U.K., including Wales and Scotland, Denmark, Canada, Kenya and Australia. It’s only New Zealand who could not get here.

I acknowledge that my late father and grandfathers would have had a richer and fuller later if Mens Sheds have been around then.

I also acknowledge everyone generously hosting us here on this great green Island of Ireland including the shedders who were unable to be here. They are the most important part of this. The warm hospitality in the past week from George Kelly, the shedders I met in Kerry, Dundalk and Cooley, Eva Beirne, Barry Sheridan and staff has been humbling.

It is great to catch up here with shedders I meet on previous visits from Antrim and Belfast. The Craic is an important part of what this is about.

There are now more mens sheds per head of population than anywhere else in the world. You have saved Irish lives, transformed families, wives and communities.

When I came to the front door this morning I met two guys, John and Steve who spoke to me with a very strange and off putting accent. And then I realised they were from Australia and I probably sounded like them. They were some of the men who have generously come all the way around the world from Flowerdale Men’s Shed in Australia to sing for us later today.

When any of us feel frustrated about our sheds or burnt out at a national or even shed, organisation or community level, it is important for each of us to remind ourselves what it is that led us to participate in a shed in the first place, and for what reasons, and with what benefits, for the shed, our families and the community.

It is also well to remember that this important movement, based on really simple but powerful grassroots principles still has some way to run.

It is the only Movement I know of that Australia has given to Ireland and the world.

The Kindergarten movement went worldwide from Germany. The Mechanics Institutes, Workingmens Clubs and WEA came to Australia from the UK. The U3A movement went global from a small start in 1972.

The Irish gave Australia convicts, potatoes and pubs, and more recently skilled workers. It is time for us to give back and also move it on.

I wish to make particular note of our theme, Sheds without Borders.

It is particularly pleasing to have this conference in Northern Ireland as proof of what is possible across borders.

It gives shedders across Ireland an opportunity to become aware of what is possible beyond the sheds as well as beyond national borders.

Many international borders have shrunk through sheds.

In 1998, only 18 Years ,ago Tongala in Victoria and Lane Cove in Sydney, Australia were the only two mens sheds open in the world. At that stage Ted Donnelly, her today amongst us was 65. You do the maths.

The first time shedders held a forum like this, in a much smaller venue, to discuss Men’s Sheds was only 11 years ago in Orbost, Victoria in 2005.

By 2007 we had our first truly national Australian conference: where else for a Men’s Movement but in Manly, Sydney?

It was at the Manly Conference that I said ‘Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder’ that has now become the slogan for most national associations.

In less than a decade since the Movement has spread across all state borders in Australia.

It was just seven years ago that the first Sheds opened in Ireland and the U.K. Now there are 650 in total across both countries.

When I finished my Men’s Movement book there were 1,325 Mens Sheds. There are now at least 400 more, perhaps 1,800 fully open by my best estimate, but it’s a movable feast.

On average each day in 2016, one new Men’s Shed officially opens somewhere in the world.

These numbers are conservative and based mainly on sheds registered as open with national associations. In all countries some men’s Sheds choose not to affiliate. In Australia many great sheds are now embedded within aged care centres for the use of residents and do not register with AMSA.

If you had told me fifteen years ago that a movement of caring shed based men with an ever age age in their 50s or 60s would become a potent, social and community movement, now spreading globally I would have said, using the Australian colloquial term, ‘bullshit’.

I was so moved by how it happened and the evidence about why it works that I wrote a book published last year called ‘The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men’ IMSA has a few copies for sale for anyone interested and you can buy it online in hard copy or as an iBook. Around 40 pages in the book includes the Irish Men’s Shed history and case studies.

Behind the raw numbers of Sheds, my book identifies and teases out an incredible Shed diversity. If this were McDonalds you’d expect all Sheds to be the same. Thankfully they are not.

While there are some important basics that I’ll come to later, sheds in many senses reflect the backgrounds and interests and dreams of the men who participate and the communities that support them.

I’d like to briefly acknowledge the important role of women here, firstly and importantly as partners of many shedders who come with their support and encouragement. Second, the many women actively involved as community workers and volunteers.

Without women, this would not have happened. The wife of Dick McGowan who invented the first Men’s Shed stood behind and supported Dicks dream before his untimely death from a heart attack and diabetes at age 59. 22 years later Ruth still participates in the same shed turning pencils in the corner, the only woman working in the Shed. Ruth recently made and plays an Irish harp.

What activities are conducted in and beyond Shed workshops is only bounded by their imaginations and a small number of practicalities.

What the men and women in this room are doing for men, women and communities across Ireland in men’s sheds is inspirational.

The Sheds across borders theme is also illustrated by those many Irish delegates present, from almost every Irish country from north to south. Last week I visited Sheds in Scotland, this week in Kerry in Ireland and Dundalk, tomorrow around Belfast and region, next week in Denmark. Wherever I go there is diversity around a common theme.

This conference is tangible evidence of the ability of shedders and the shed concept to cut across and unite across national, cultural, administrative and linguistic borders.

Welcome to Mie and Svend from Denmark. Their sheds were the first to escape to a mainly non-English speaking country.

It would be dishonest and unhelpful of me to suggest that there are no borders in Men’s Sheds.

All community organisations, particularly grassroots ones including community Men’s Sheds, have and continue to have robust debate in each of the seven countries with active national movements: about what counts as a Men’s Shed, who is to be encouraged to participate, how it should be organised and funded, how a grassroots Movement might be most effectively organised by state or county, country or internationally.

The detail aside, we should try and show leadership as relative elders in our communities and amicably sort our differences beyond the Shed by listening and talking, as men do within the Shed.

Whilst leadership is to be encouraged, the organisationally ‘flat’ nature of the Shed makes it important that all views are canvassed and considered.

In this way a Men’s Shed also cuts across class and occupational backgrounds. The only skill a men needs, as Riverbank Frank, an Aboriginal elder put in it the Dubbo Shed in rural Australia, is to be able to sit down, have a cuppa, listen, and get a man to tell their story.

The shed is also decentred. It operates well in the smallest and remotest places in rural areas and in local urban neighbourhoods.

For me there have to be several fundamentals based on the evidence

There were a few ‘The Sheds’ in South Australia. that preceded men’s sheds by 5 years. Maxine Kitto said 20 years ago in 1996 in Goolwa, SA that The Shed worked because the men were empowered.

In my words, shedders are not clients, customers, patients or students. They come because of what they know and can do, not what they can’t do.

I came across two inspirational men in an aged care home in Oatlands, Tasmania who had been rejected by the aged care management in their attempt to create a community garden because of the risk management issues. The men went ahead and did it anyway. As the man limited to using a wheelchair after a stroke said to me, I may only have the use of one arm, but it’s a good arm”.

The Mens Shed, as Dick McGowan succinctly put it in 1997 is a place for men, somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.

1. The most important part of the Movement are you, the shedders: it’s your Shed and your local community that supports it.

2. Taking account of practicality and safety, all men should feel at home and be welcome to participate. This crosses boundaries of religion, language, sexual orientation, nationally and disability.

3. While women continue to play critically important roles, it works best for most men if the Shed space is mainly or mostly men.

If you want to put it in the simplest but most powerful terms, backed up by research from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, ‘isolation is deadly’.

What sheds do is connect men from diverse backgrounds in even the smallest communities that are unreachable by conventional modes of provision. They provide two essential things that are also the concern of governments, particularly for men in later life who for any reason are ‘beyond paid work’.

1. They help them to stay independent and well as long as possible.
2. They provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge and skills intergenerationally.

Sheds also cut across academic disciplinary and occupational borders. The world and people do not exist in silos.

While a Shed can’t be all things, it can be many things at once. Men’s Sheds alert us to the reality that people and their needs are diverse and multifaceted.

The world of government cuts and funds things in boxes.

This fact sometimes makes it frustrating for professionals, governments service providers used to working and funding discrete ‘programs’ and ‘services’. For the same reasons, researchers find it hard to work out the appropriate disciplinary approach to Sheds.

Sheds also cut across age. While most shedders are older by virtue of the amount of free time they sometimes have beyond paid work.

I finish by acknowledging how far we have come.

One of the most powerful documents to elaborate on Dick’s McGowan’s philosophy about the Men’s Shed, opened in his honour as the Dick McGowan Men’s Shed in July 1998 surfaced via Ruth McGowan after the text of my Men’s Shed Movement book had been finalised.

In words typed by Dick dated 27 May 1999 and signed off as ‘The Company of Men’, Dick McGowan used capitalisation for emphasis when he noted that the list of things that might take place in the Shed

… is endless. WE SHOULD NOT THINK OF THE SHED AS ONLY A WORK-SHOP. It is an activity centre, a meeting place, a place for discussion and argument, a place for companionship – in short a part of HOME.



With Dick’s profound words I say a sincere thanks again and look forward to an exciting and important day here in Belfast.

Kerry Men’s Shed visit and diary, mid Oct 2016

It is the least I can do, given the generousity of my Kerry hosts, to share my perceptions and experiences of my recent visit, focussed mainly on the Kerry Men’s Sheds but also taking in a small part of the enticing   Kerry, Ireland landscape and culture.

Sat Oct 15, fly Dublin to Kerry

This morning the flight was from Dublin to Kerry. IMSA President and my generous host for my stay in Kerry is George Kelly. George was there with his nephew James to pick me up at Kerry Airport. We had a homespun Irish pub lunch of hake and boiled vegetables with potato close to the airport on arrival. George’s nearby tourist farm Hazelfort Farm caters for visitors including school age children.

I am for the next four days in rural Kerry week south of Dublin in a huge farmhouse George manages on the Ring of Kerry between Killarney and Killorgin. I am looking out as I pen this on Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain, just over 1000 metres, low by continental European standards. Most of my visit it is to be covered in cloud and mist.


Carrauntoohill in cloud

After a quick eat in dinner George took me to a Rambling House. I see on line that:

‘In recent years, in County Kerry, a tradition known as the “rambling house” has been revived. In times past, a rambling house was regularly organized to provide residents of a province or even a small city a venue for entertainment: song, recitations, stories, and jokes.’

The setting was the local Listry Community Centre. All ages were there, the instruments mostly button accordions with vocals as well as spoons and a guitar. There was set dancing, some involving heel and toe  movement with tap shoes. An MC kept it all flowing, supper was included and it was a most enjoyable evening all around. Given the participatory theme, I contributed an unaccompanied ‘Maryborough Miner’ at the very end.

Weather permitting, George has plans for us to go out tomorrow by boat to Skellig Michael, a place I have always wanted to go, a World Heritage site since 1996. A Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century and remained continuously occupied until it was abandoned in the late 12th century.


Kerry coast, The Skelligs on the horizon

Sunday, 16 Oct Kerry

The seas were too high and it was very wet this morning so no trip out to Skellig Michael this time round. George and James have gone to church and pick me up late morning to go down to the Ring of Kerry Coast.

We headed first to Killorglin and west around the Ring of Kerry to Cahersiveen where we had a cuppa and cake with the welcoming guys in the local Men’s Shed, located in a disused fabric workshop. First time I have seen full size billiards table in a Shed. One of the shedders, Tom generously came with us as a guide, heading to Portmagee and then onto the Skellig Ring to the Kerry Cliffs, with remarkable vistas out towards the distant Skelligs. We drove on very steep roads to Keel and Ballinskelligs, returning back to Cahersiveen, then via Ballaghisheen Pass and the Glencar Hotel to Killorglin.

Monday, 17 Oct, Kerry

My host George picked me up this morning for a tour of his farm, starting with an introduction to the Social Farming group, essentially people with a disability who come regularly to the farm, assisted by a carer, to help with farm duties, particularly with the farm animals. My highlight was the Third Century fort that Hazel Fort Farm is named after, essentially a circular earth wall surrounded by what was a moat adjacent to River Laune. The area is now wooded but the fort is obvious and impressive.

In the afternoon I went into Killarney Town with George to shop, then for a delightful dinner with seven men from the Killarney Men’s Shed. Afterwards we spent two stimulating hours chatting at the Killarney Shed and finished up very late evening with a Guinness at a nearby hotel.


River Laune, Kerry

Tuesday, 18 Oct, Kerry

The event today was jointly organised by the Kerry Partnership and the Irish Mens Sheds Association. We traveled first to Killarney and met with Pat O’Brien who is actively involved in his retirement with Kerry Mental Health in an adjacent Cafe and and activity centre. We travelled up via Tralee (of Rose of Tralee fame) to the huge Kerry Partnership dairy factory at Listowel.

Participating Men’s Sheds were from Killarney as well as Abbeyfeale, Ballybunion, Tralee and Ballyduff. Pat from Killarney Men’s Shed is also an amateur apiarist. The Kerry Partnership has a vision of getting a community based apiary established opposite the factory on land, perhaps with Men’s Shed buy-in. opposite. The site includes a large area of native forest. I spoke about the big picture of Men’s Sheds, the shedders had displays of some of their work and Pat talked about beekeeping in Ireland. We met afterwards over lunch with an HR Manager, Kevin from the Kerry Group and travelled back with a short detour through Tralee.

Pat talked all the way back about the fascinating recent history of Ireland, in its long and painful road to independence from the British between 1916 and 1922.

Tonight George and I had dinner in Larkins Bar in Mill Town close to Castlemaine. Afterwards we drove through the relatively small hamlet of Castlemaine, birthplace of the Australian Wild Colonial Boy, and passed by the KC Men’s Shed.


Kerry sea cliffs, The Skelligs on the horizon 

Reflecting on my experiences of four days in Kerry, it is clear that the Men’s Sheds and IMSA are strongly supported by their local communities in Kerry. There is a desire from all parties to make it work. As with all Men’s Sheds, at the margins there are sometimes personality differences, odd internal ructions and perennial questions about Shed purpose, appropriate activities and membership.

I am impressed by the IMSA pitch via their leaflet. It carefully defines what a men’s shed is, with health and wellbeing in the final sixth line. It briefly sets out IMSAs Purpose as being ‘to support the development and sustainability of Men’s Sheds in Ireland’. The vision is for ‘a future where all men in Ireland have the opportunity to improve and maintain their wellbeing by taking part in a community Men’s Shed.’ Irish Men’s Sheds Association email is Its web address is with a postal address 1st Floor Ballymun Civic Centre, Ballymun, Dublin 9. phone 01-8916150.



Scottish Men’s Shed visit diary, mid-October 2016


Given the generousity of my Scottish hosts, the least I can do is share my diary, emphasising the important and fascinating work underway with the Men’s Shed Movement across Scotland, with around 40 Shed already opened and 60 more in the planning stages.

Wednesday Oct 12 2016: A tour around some Sheds in Aberdeenshire, then by evening train to Glasgow

It was really relaxing last night to be welcomed at Aberdeen airport by my host Jason Schroeder after a day and half of continuous travel and walk into a small and homely rural space, and particularly to sleep mostly soundly in a very warm and comfortable upstairs bed. Though I woke a few times through jet lag I mainly slept solidly to 8am. A homely breakfast and a wander around the garden, with Claudia’s exquisite Mongolian yurt and Jason’s Sweat Lodge and male ceremonial area was illuminating.

The first day, Wednesday 28 Oct was spent visiting three Men’s Sheds in Aberdeenshire, in large rural towns that in Australia would likely be called ‘cities’, in Ellon, Inverurie and Westhill. Ellon and District Men’s Shed had only recently had its floor concreted. Much of their accumulated gear was stored in containers outside whilst the renovation and partitioning work was underway. The Shed also has access to a large area of land, now grassed along a former adjacent railway track.


Ellon & District Men’s Shed, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

All three Sheds have enthusiastic members and are registered Scottish Charities with management committees operating out of Council owned properties under very cheap rental agreements. Some Sheds have up to 100 registered members but with a much smaller core of very active and very enthusiastic members. Jason Schroeder who hosted me and showed me around has played an important early role in all three, operating from a community development ethos.

All three Sheds are underpinned by the skills and energies of many ex North Sea oil and gas workers, some very recently displaced by the rapid and recent downturn in the industry locally. In all three Sheds, the social area is or will be appropriately and deliberately large to emphasise the value of the social, and also take account to the fact that an uninsulated Shed does not make a very warm or inviting area mid winter in a cold climate, high latitude region.

Inverurie Men’s Shed has a number of very well appointed spaces, not all contiguous. There is a large social area and a separate large, exceptionally well equipped Shed that includes a small blacksmithing area as well as wood and metal working equipment. It also has a very impressive large polytunnel community garden with many diverse late summer vegetables, indoor and out.

Westhill Men’s Shed was the first in Scotland, established over a period from 2009 and officially opened in 2013. Its story is well documented in my Men’s Shed Movement book. The former library building it has transformed is in a relatively new suburban area of Westhill. The floor area is huge and it is jam packed with mostly donated equipment, tools and stored materials. While in the Shed I met Jeremy Watt who has recently completed a PhD thesis, currently under examination, which is an ethnographic study of the ‘Carstonwood’ Men’s Shed in Scotland.

I am penning this part of my diary on the very comfortable evening train from Aberdeen to Glasgow, in 1st class with Wi Fi. I had a most interesting and productive day being shown around the three Sheds in Aberdeenshire with Jason. Jason and Claudia were exceptional and generous guides and hosts for my day here, and so far so good with jet lag. This time I saw very little of central Aberdeen itself, but from the little I saw again, this being my second visit here, the widespread use of granite in all manner and generations of buildings is simply astounding.

It was mostly fine in Aberdeen, but not all Australians would appreciate the grey Scottish conurbation and penetrating cold I experienced here today. The rail fare Jason pre booked for me tonight from Aberdeen to Glasgow was only 10GBP for a close to one hour train trip in warm comfort with wifi on my own in a first class compartment with complimentary coffee and trolley service. Thank you ScotRail.

Being a late arrival at Glasgow Queens Street a taxi to the Albion Hotel was simplest. A big and hot room but with only a dribble of cold water, resulted in a complaint to management and a welcome room shift next morning.

Tomorrow I am at University of Glasgow including for the afternoon Men’s Shed Forum, 72 capacity participants booked in, now turning people away, so much interest with Mens. Sheds growing here in Scotland. The decline of many industries in this region combined with population aging makes Men’s Sheds very timely in Scotland. Glasgow has a history of very early life expectancy amongst men.

Thursday Oct 13 Glasgow

The morning started after the traditionally unhealthy Scottish breakfast and a pre booked taxi to the Clydeside for a 8.40am BBC Scotland Morning Show radio interview. Richard Baynes, a writer, editor and producer who works freelance with the BBC was invited to join what was a very brief 3.5 minute interview. All I could do beyond the few generic questions was give a brief plug for SMSA and the Scottish Movement.

Afterwards I met with John Evoy from Ireland and David Helmers from Australia who are participating in today’s program in Glasgow as well as for dinner nearby our hotel this evening with people from Age Scotland interested in working with and through Mens Sheds.

The walk across to the University of Glasgow along the River Kelvin walkway was delightful. I met with Frances Gaughan, Mike Osborne’s PA to check all the admin arrangements were in place for today’s afternoon Men’s Sheds. The 72 participants registered are from a wide range of backgrounds and locations across the broader Glasgow region. At 11.30am I met over coffee nearby with host Prof Mike Osborne from CR&DLL, the Centre for Research and Development of Lifelong Learning at University of Glasgow.

The Forum was excellent. Willie Whitelaw, Secretary of the Irish Mens Sheds Association, his details from the program pasted below, was excellent on the front end, with David Helmers and John Evoy providing strong and pertinent support about Men’s Sheds in Australia and internationally respectively. The panels discussing the Research possibilities and ways the Scottish Mens Sheds Association might be strengthened on the end both worked really well. The first panel consisted of Steve Markham, a Health Promotions academic, Jason Schoeder from SMSA, John Evoy and David Helmers. The second panel consisted of Catherine Lido, a social psychologist from Glasgow University, myself, Harry McVeigh from Shettleston Men’s Shed and Saby Singh, a PhD from Glasgow.

Willie Whitelaw is a founder member and Secretary of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association (SMSA). His interest in Men’s Sheds was ignited in late 2013 when a change of work, from community work to working with timber, prompted a search to find local people who could offer advice on woodworking. This search revealed the amazing world of Men’s Sheds, which seemed a perfect mix of making by hand and community development. With the help of the UKMSA web site & shed map, Willie met with some like-minded local people who created a small networking group; Glasgow Area Men’s Sheds (GAMS). Willie has a keen interest in huts, sheds, land use, woodlands & communities.

Steven Markham, mentioned above has recently completed a Masters dissertation called a Realist investigation of a wellbeing focused Men’s Shed, based on a study of a shed in The Republic of Ireland.

Dr Margaret Sutherland’s summing up at the end was exceptional, emotional and insightful. Margaret in Deputy Director of CR&DLL. This would be eminently suitable for publishing in an edited and extended paper.

The Forum archived excellent and very positive Scottish publicity as below:

LISTEN: Are you a Glasgow ‘Shedder’? (Web) – 13/10/2016

BBC 2 Scotland – 13 October 2016 – 22:49:32
Scotland Tonight, BBC 2 Scotland – 13/10/2016 22:49:32
Report on the “Men’s Sheds” movement which held an international meeting at Glasgow University on 13 Oct.

BBC Radio Scotland – 13 October 2016 – 08:48:34
BBC Radio Scotland – 13/10/2016 08:48:34
The Men’s Shed movement will be the focus of a debate at Glasgow University on 13 Oct.
During the Forum it was announced that The Scottish Parliament was moving towards a second vote on leaving the UK, motivated in part by broadly held unhappiness about the recent Brexit decision.

Age Scotland Men’s Shed worker and Vice EO joined john Evoy and David Helmers over dinner at a nearby hotel. I was by now very jet lagged and was really glad to turn in early and get in total 11 hours sleep.

In summary, reflecting on my few days in Scotland I am most impressed by the SMSA approach. Their leaflet has six faces on their Board members on the cover of ages including one woman. The slogan is Inspiring and supporting Scotland’s Shedders. The message on the front of the leaflet is: Building Communities, Making a Difference, Leading Active Lives. Individual Membership of SMSA is free. By completing and signing the membership form members agree to the SMSA Constitution. Members get an attractive badge as well as a leaflet congratulating and welcoming them to SMSA with an exhortation to become actively involved. The email for contact is The website is SMSA office address is 72a High Street Banchory AB31 5SS. Phone 01330825529.

Friday Oct 14 Glasgow, then to Dublin, Ireland

After packing I headed across Glasgow by bus and train towards Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop and husband Robin’s place for a most enjoyable Scottish breakfast that doubled as lunch. Aline drove me to the Shettleston Men’s Shed for the afternoon visit, including students from a Master of Lifelong Learning and Social Change group. This a remarkably successful Shed, and the shedders were incredibly generous. I was later sent a link by Jane McBride to the 40th Anniverary of the Shettleston Housing Assocation that features the men. See

I took an Uber back to Glasgow Uni with some students for a final debrief and enjoyable Caledonian Ale at a nearby hotel before picking up my bag from the Albion Hotel and a taxi to Glasgow airport for the evening flight to Dublin with Aer Lingus.

Some ‘Golding’ family connections

Some ‘Golding’ Family Connections

Barry Golding

last updated  13 Nov 2016

Family trees are like rivers: finding out where you come from is like swimming in a stream and wondering which of many forks to follow in the headwaters. Beyond my four grandparents, on my father, John William Golding’s side of the family, I could follow the Golding stream via William Golding and wife Elizabeth Golding‘s immigration (at age 26 and 20 respectively) to Australia in 1851 from rural Suffolk, via his son William Golding (born 1863 in St Arnaud), my grandfather, Walter James Golding (born 12/5/1892) and father John William (‘Jack’) Golding (born 17 April 1920).

I could instead follow the Pearse stream via my grandmother Golding, born Amelia Geake Pearse on 11/12/1897 leads back to rural Devon and Cornwall. In both cases it appears to have been economically driven immigration from England to Australia during the 1850s. While many of my Golding and Pearse forebears ended up on the Victorian goldfields, in the case of the Golding connection at least, the exit from England just preceded the discovery of gold.

The detailed family trees on my parent’s side confirm that there has been a move by successive generations  over two centuries from grinding poverty and very large fMilies in rural England to relative opportunity in Australia, at first on the Victorian goldfields, but later to the Western Australian goldfields, small north western Victorian towns and more recently to Melbourne. The number of Golding descendants is relatively small because in many early generations women predominated and many children died relatively young.

This account concentrates mainly on my fathers family. On my mother, Joan Ethel Lane’s side I could follow either her father, Ralph Lane’s family back to London, England, or back to London via my maternal grandmother, born Mary Robinson Gudgion. Ralph and Mary married in England and emigrated to Australia in the early 1900s, around sixty years later than the Golding’s and the Pearse’s. Their emigration to Australia appears to have been more related to what became Ralph’s lifetime profession in the Royal Australian Navy.

To keep it simple I will later separately research and write an account of ‘The Lane & Gudgion Connections’. Given our three children Dajarra, Karri and Tanja Rose Golding also have Bracks connections back to Lebanon via my wife, Janet Elizabeth Bracks ( her father Stanley Salem Bracks and wife Marion  nee Davis) I optimistically plan to later research and write a complementary ‘The Bracks & Davis Connections’ account. Both these accounts will be based on more limited evidence. Everything that follows is based either on documentary evidence from previous family research or confident recollections from people still alive in 2016.

My method and acknowledgements

This blog follows just my ‘Golding’ origins that I inherit in my surname and that our three children also inherit. To be consistent I have bolded only the names of my directly connected forebears and asterisked * people alive during my life and known to me. In brief, the Golding connections story is most simply told via three sub-stories. The first and most fragmentary story goes back to the Golding family in England pre-1851.

The second sub-story covers my ‘grandfather’s grandfather’ William Golding’s (born in Stansfield, Suffolk, England on 22 February 1824) immigration to Australia in 1851 with his wife Elizabeth Golding (born in Cavendish, Suffolk in 1830) through his son, also William Golding (born 2/1/1863 in St Arnaud around the time his parents were on ‘The Peters’ Diggings (now Carapooee, near St Arnaud, Victoria), to the birth in 1892 of my grandfather Walter James Golding * in St Arnaud. Much of this sub-story is centred on the area around St Arnaud.

The third and most recent sub-story covers my grandfather Walter’s marriage and move to Donald, My father, John William Golding * was born in Donald (17/4/1920). Most of this sub-story focuses on Donald where I was also born in 1950, 101 years after the first Golding’s arrived (on 8/8/1851) at Port Adelaide from London on the barque Sultana.

I acknowledge that this small summary, like all research, rests on the shoulders of previous ‘giants’. My sincere thanks to all those who, living and dead, who have assisted by researching information from within and beyond our extended families. This is very much a work in progress. My particular thanks to Dale Watts for researching the Golding family tree, Sincere thanks to Ross Proctor and Gail Remnant of St Arnaud, Golding family descendants via Ellen Golding  (born 1871 in St Arnaud) and Emma Golding (born 1868 on Peters Digging)s for a huge effort researching all of this on behalf of the hundreds of descendants. It was Ross Proctor who generously did all of the organisation for the Golding family commemorative plaque in Nov 2016.

Why does all this matter?

I understand why our children, now in their 30s ask me this question. For me it is important to make sense of the past in order to make sense of the present. As a UK academic colleague I greatly respect, Professor Peter Jarvis once said, there can be no more important quest in life to make sense of the life you have lived before you die.

It is also important because one day other family members will want to know some of these stories and they have some modern parallels. I was born approximately 100 years after the first Golding and later Pearse ancestors left Suffolk and Cornwall respectively seeking to make their fortunes and to be reunited with family who moved to Australia. They were an earlier generation of ‘boat people’, effectively English economic refugees, fleeing rural poverty like many generations of immigrant Australians – except for our First Nations people.

I was actually motivated to write when I heard about a project, generously led by relatives going back to William Golding (born 1824) – relatives that I did not know – to finally place a tombstone on his grave in the St Arnaud Cemetery on 13  November 2016, 165 years after William and Elizabeth arrived as recently married very young economic refugees in Australia, from Suffolk in England, looking for gold and a new life together.

The photo, below was taken at the unveiling of the ‘memorial to our ancestors’ generously organised by Ross Proctor on the site of William and Elizabeth Golding’s previously unmarked graves in the St Arnaud Cemetery on 13 Nov 2016, by Doris Jones (nee Golding, born January 1925) and our eldest son Dajarra Golding (born January 1981).


It is finally important because some of the information I have collected from my parents and grandparents is in danger of being lost. When my parents Jack and Joan Golding were interested in and explored family history I had little interest and it was very much harder without the internet. The family trees were painstakingly researched by collecting original documents, by ‘snail mail’ as well as by visiting cemeteries, birthplaces and churches in the UK, written in longhand or typed on typewriters. In the process lots of errors were made and repeated, including by me. This is just a draft: please let me know what I may have got wrong.

The Golding connections in Suffolk, England

Relatively little is know about the Golding connections in Suffolk, England prior to William and Elizabeth immigrating to Australia in 1851. William’s death certificate (copy below from 1876) records his father’s name also as William Golding (tailor) and his mother as ‘Mary Ann Golding ‘maiden name unknown’, but her maiden surname was likely ‘Mansfield’.

William Golding Death certificate, St Arnaud 13 Aug 1876

The William Golding who emigrated to Australia was recorded as a 15 year old on the UK Census from 1841 living in Stansfield. In the same census household was another ‘William Golding’ aged 60 with a profession that appears, from the written census form to be ‘shoemaker’). ‘Susan Golding’ also aged 60 was also in the same household, along with a 15 year old Mary Ann whose surname appears to be ‘Mashton’. The 60 year old William and Susan are more likely in those times to be grandparents than William’s father or mother.

 From Suffolk to life in St Arnaud

 The barque Sultana (588 tons, Mastered by Captain Mainland) left London on 24 April 1851 (via Plymouth, departing 2 May 1851) and arrived at Port Adelaide, South Australia on 8 August 1851. Its cargo comprised 256 immigrants including William and Elizabeth Golding. The free immigrants aboard were mostly families, including 56 children aged 10 years or under but also including 17 single women and 35 single men 15 years or over. Most of the people on board whose professions were identified on the ships passenger list were miners from Cornwall or rural English agricultural labourers (like my forebears) from a range of English counties but also included a small number of Scottish and Irish immigrants.


Whilst many of the immigrants on the Sultana would have later headed for the Victorian goldfields from South Australia to ‘try their luck’, they did not set out to do so when they left the UK. The Sultana was already at sea on its three month plus voyage to Australia at the time of the first widely publicised gold discovery in Australia near Bathurst in May 1851: by June 1851 the resultant ‘gold rush’ attracted over 2,000 miners at the Ophir diggings near Bathurst. The passengers on the Sultana were still in transit on 7 July 1851 when the news of the first gold discovery in Victoria at Clunes.

The Sultana passenger list includes William Golding, age 26, agricultural labourer from Sudbury, Suffolk, as well as his wife Elizabeth Golding. Four of the immigrants died at sea on the long journey across, and there were three births. William’s death certificate records that he lived for ‘about two years South Australia, 24 years Victoria’, most likely until approximately 1853when they appear to have headed for the Victorian goldfields.

Their first-born child, Hannah Golding was born one year later in 1853 in Avoca. By the time their second child, Elizabeth Alice Golding was born on 10 Nov 1856 they were in nearby Dunolly. Susan Golding (perhaps named after her grandmother) was born three years later in 1859 in nearby Bealiba, and Mary Ann Golding was born the following year (1860) in nearby Lamplough. While my direct Golding forebear, young William Golding and the next born, Sarah Golding were both born in St Arnaud in 1863 and 1865 respectively, Emma Holding was born on Peters Diggings in 1868.

It appears that William and Elizabeth Golding and several of their youngest children were part of the gold rush at the Peter Diggings near present day Carapooee, a locality 12 km south east of St Arnaud crossed by the both Carapooee and Strathfillan Creeks. The Strathfillan pastoral run was first taken up in 1844, and in 1857 the run came into the hands of David Peters. When gold was discovered there in 1858 the resulting tent settlement became known as Peter’s Diggings. During 1859-60 there was a population on Peter’s Diggings of around of 1,300 miners.

William and Elizabeth Golding had nine children in the 22 years between 1854 and 1875, seven of whom were girls (Hannah, Alice, Susan, Mary Ann, Sarah, Emma and Eileen). William Golding (senior) died relatively young, apparently at age 51 in St Arnaud in August 1876 (his death certificate records his age at death as 50 years and cause of death ‘carcinoma of liver’). At the time of his death their youngest child, Walter James Golding (same name but not my grandfather, who died aged 10 in 1887) was only 2 months old.


William’s wife Elizabeth, undated studio photograph below, remarried in 1883 to John Perry (a ‘labourer’, born 23 August 1829 in Kent, England) and lived to the ‘ripe old age’ for those times of 82, dying in St Arnaud on 31 July 1912.


William and Elizabeth’s middle child from whom I am descended, William Golding (junior) was named after his father and was the only male family member to have children and carry on the Golding name to the next generation. He was born 2 January 1863 in St Arnaud, working much of his life as a miner there in the Lord Nelson gold mine and dying in St Arnaud in 1935. Young William’s six sisters who lived into adulthood married into some then well known St Arnaud families with the surnames of Tucker, Perry, Rigoll, Jeremiah and Cockburn.

Several generations of Tucker descendants mostly lived in Melbourne; many of the Perry descendants remained in St Arnaud, while many of the Rigoll descendants followed the gold west to Western Australia. In 1933 Emma Jeremiah was still living at Strathvale in Carapooee.

William Golding (junior, often referred to as ‘Wally’) was only seven years old (in approximately 1870) when his parents moved from Peters (Carapooee) to St Arnaud and only 13 years old when his father died. An article from the Donald Times (23 May 1933) fills in some of the gaps. His parents and their nine children including young William lived in a bark hut off Butcher Street in St Arnaud. He has attended the Common School, later (by 1933) called the Church of England Sunday School but at age 13 with the death of his father became the family breadwinner at the Chrysotile Mine (renamed Lord Nelson Mine). His first job involved washing the pyrites from the gold battery. Later he did some ‘tributing’, a mining term for doing work on a mining lease where the proceeds are shared by those doing the work. William Golding junior spent a total of 38 years working at the very rich Lord Nelson mine, which was worked to the great depth of 3,380 feet (over 1 km). When the mine closed William worked ‘with Mr McMullen repairing Shire bridges’. For four years in later life he was in charge of the St Arnaud Bowling Green and put a lot of time into ‘improving his property and growing vegetables’. ‘Wally’ was an active member of the Methodist Church for many years and a prominent local preacher.

William Golding (junior) married Olivia Trewin (from Ballarat, born 1859) on 28 July 1890 in South Melbourne. They had four children and lived in Mackay Street opposite the now St Arnaud Secondary College. My own grandfather, Walter James Golding * was their first live born on 12 May 1892 (a stillborn child was born to them in May 1891). Walter lived as a child in St Arnaud and only moved to Donald after he and his wife (born Amelia Geake Pearse * 11/12/1897, died 15 July 1981) married on 21/3/1921 and set up a hardware business, details of which follow in the next section below.

My grandfather, Walter had three siblings: Doris Olivia Golding, known as ‘ Dot’ and employed ‘as a salesgirl in a St Arnaud business’ was born on 18/8/1893 and died in her 20s (on 21 March 1921), so the family story goes, ‘of a broken heart’ but it seems her cause of death was actually tuberculosis, then known as ‘consumption’. My grandfather’s brother Rupert William Golding was born in 1895 and died in 1967. Rupert married Vida Lillian Digby * (who I do remember) died in 1986) and in 1933 was manager of the drapery branch of Tyler’s Stores in Port Fairy. Their son, Geoffrey Gordon Golding * born in 1927, contracted polio and also lived in Port Fairy and married Opal June Kitching on 18 March 1950, very close to my own birth date. Geoffrey and Opal’s son Chris Eric Golding born in 1952 had children who carry on the Golding name.

My grandfather’s youngest brother Eric Golding *, born in 1897 died in November 1964. In 1933 Eric was employed in Mildura by Risby and Company. Eric and family lived much of his life on a ‘fruit block’ with grape vines in the Mildura area with his wife, my ‘Auntie Eva’ * (born Eva Townsend, who died in 1966). They also had two sons. William, better known as ‘Bill’ Golding * born in 1932 became a schoolteacher and later Principal in Mildura, Dimboola and Portland. Bill Golding retired to Portland with Val (born Valerie Jean Murray) to create and maintain the now iconic Great South West Walk. Bill was is alive and very well in 2016, Bill and Val had two children, Jennifer and Stephen, born in 1963 and 1964 respectively. Stephen’s children carry on the Golding family name.

From St Arnaud to life Donald

 My grandfather, Walter and my grandmother, Amelia were from St Arnaud and Donald respectively. Their ‘courting days’ involved a lot of travel in between. At first Walter went into partnership with Rowe’s hardware store in St Arnaud, to become Rowe & Sons and Golding with a Donald store that was still functioning by this name in 1933.

James Rowe and Sons was first established in St Arnaud in 1869. In 1908 a Donald branch was opened under the management of a Mr Cole. A photograph in the ‘Shanty at the Bridge’ book taken in 1910 shows J Rowe and Sons store in Woods Street, Importers, of furniture ironmongery, stationery, crockery. In 1912 Walter James, W J. Golding succeeded Mr Cole. In the mid 1920s there  was also a branch of the store in Mildura and Melbourne. Fire destroyed the store in 1927 as well as adjoining W.H. Gray stock and station agent store. The fabric of the store that became W. J. Golding and Co was presumably rebuilt of both sites after 1927.

Amelia’s parents helped Walter and his bride  build a new brick house in Donald in Meyer Street that was for a long time my sister Judith and Wayne Hastings’ family home. Walter was a keen musician and in 1917 a member of ‘The Donald Minstrels’ that gave concerts in Donald, St Arnaud, Corack and Watchem. He was accomplished at bush recitations, a keen sporting shooter and cricketer. In the mid 1920s he was President of the Donald Cricket Club.

When the business partnership with Rowe broke up the Donald hardware store became ‘W. J. Golding & Company’, which became a long running family business that sustained and employed not only my father John William Golding * better known as ‘Jack’ (born 17/4/1920, died 26/4/2002) and my mother Joan Golding * (born Joan Ethel Lane, died 5 April 2011), but also my Auntie and father’s ‘young’ sister, Doris Golding, born Jan 1925, who became Doris Jones * when she married Graham Jones (born Dec 1924) in 1947. ‘Auntie Doris’ is the only ‘Golding ‘family member still alive (and very well) from my father’s generation in 2016. Doris and Graham had one child, Shirley Faye Jones * (born Jan 1949). Shirley married Richard Riordan (now deceased) in 1970 and they had one child Bryce Richard Riordan in 1980.

I am the middle of three children, born in March 1950 at the Donald Bush Nursing Hospital as Barry John Golding, changing my middle name by statutory declaration to Goanna. My only sister Judith was born August 1948, and married Wayne Alfred Hastings (born July 1947 in Maryborough) in 1972. After their marriage they lived in Maryborough, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga while Wayne worked in the bank and Judy taught in primary schools. in 1979 they took over the family business, W. J. Golding and Co. and moved back to Donald. The business was sold to Onley Holdings in 2004. Their two children Sean David Hastings (born Dec 1978) and Lachlan Wayne Hastings (born August 1981) are both married, to Jean ( Maiden name Oi) and Emma respectively, and are living and working in Melbourne. Lachlan and Emma (maiden name Schmidt, originally from Nhill) in 2016 have one very young son Daniel Joseph born in April 2015..

My only brother Peter Golding was born in March 1950 the day after my fifth birthday. His first marriage was to Martina Callahan, whose father Frank Callahan was a passionate musician and the former Donald Postmaster. Frank and his wife Margaret retired to Ballarat, was well known around Ballarat in later life as ‘The One Man Band” and died quite recently. Peter and Martina had three children together: Sarah, Hannah and Simon, born in 1985, 1987 and 1990 respectively. Sarah was born in Australia. Hannah and Simon were born in the US where Peter has worked using his PhD as a physics academic, first at Columbus in Ohio, and later in University of Texas in El Paso where he still lives. After Peter and Martina separated and divorced in 1994, Peter married Diane Schlueter and they have two children, Walter Golding  (born Jan 1994) and Joan Golding (born Feb 1996( as well as Aaron Macelunas from Diane’s first marriage.

The Pearse Connections

My great grandfather J. T. Pearse (my paternal grandmother’s father, born in 1869 at Hardy’s Hill south of Buninyong, who died when I was five) was the fourth and final child to an earlier W. N. L. Pearse born in Cornwall (not my grandmother’s brother). The word ‘Pearse’ in Cornish was pronounced more like ‘perse’. J.T.’s siblings Jane Mary Pearse (born 1860) and William Geake Pearse (born 1861) were both born in Creswick. Edward John Pearse was born in at Durham Lead near Ballarat in 1866 and only lived to the following year. The family tree starts to look very confused a few decades later since Lilly Lucretia Pearse (WNL’s daughter) later married her nephew, J.T Pearse.

J.T.’s father, the earlier W. N. L (William Nicholas Langman) Pearse was born on 16/6/1832 and christened at the South Petherwin parish (Methodist) church in Cornwall, England. W.N.L. Pearse was the second of nine Pearses – all born in Cornwall. He married Amelia Geake (born 22 April 1835 in Saint Germans, Cornwall: after whom my own grandmother, Amelia Geake Golding [nee Pearse] was named. Both died on the Pearse family farm, Devon Park near Donald: in 1897 (Amelia) and 5 April 1906.

Their father, William Pearse was born in 1804. William was a butcher by trade. William married Jane Langman (born in 1803, died in 1892). William died in Ballarat East in 1889.

Their first born was Thomas Pearse, born in Cornwall in 1830, married in 1861 in Victoria to Elizabeth Jane Sullivan. They both died in Dean, Victoria: Thomas in 1922, Elizabeth in 1938.

Third born Geddie Pearse (born in Cornwall in 1835) had four children all buried in Buninyong. Fourth born was Richard Thomas Pearse (born 1836) who became a grocer in Ballarat and had eight children, all of whom were born and died in Ballarat. Richard Pearse, who was at one stage Mayor of the City of Ballarat, and lived at 615 Skipton St, Ballarat) and Phillipa (mother of Lilly Lucretia who emigrated with William Caddy from Wendron, Cornwall around 1867.

Fifth born, Joseph Langman Pearse (born 1838) had five children. Sixth born, Mary Ann Langman Pearse. Both Joseph and Mary (died 1918 and 1915 respectively) were buried in Charlton.

William and Jane’s last-born,  Phillipa Langman Pearse (born in 1845 in Cornwall, England) who married William Caddy. It was their  daughter Lillian Lucretia Caddy also known as ‘Lilly’ (born 1870) who married her cousin, John Thomas (J. T.) Pearse (my great grandfather) in 1895.

The Pearse’s descended from W.N.L are a well know Donald family, most having been wheat and sheep farmers in the area around where their ancestors were born and lived as children at ‘Devon Park’ on the St Arnaud side of Donald. My great grandfathered fourth born  J. T. Pearse (born 1869 in Durham Lead near Ballarat) had three siblings, A younger sister Jane Mary Pearse was born and died in 1860 in Creswick.

William Geake Pearse was  also both in Creswick in 1861. His third born son (to Isabella) was my beloved ‘Uncle Jack’, John Frederick Pearse* (born 1891, died 1976). Uncle Jack was in my eyes, a very wise and philosophical man. He milked cows in the open paddock wherever he found them on the farm and brought fresh cream and milk to our home in Donald. He was a devout Methodist and Superintendent of the Donald Methodist Sunday School. Uncle Jack’s children ( Auntie ‘Eva’ [and ‘Jack’ Frankling]*, ‘Jean’ [and Ivan Clempson]* as well as Ivan [and Beryl] Pearse* were all very much part of my growing up in Donald.

William Geake Pearse and Isabella’s fourth child was Geddie Thomas Pearse, my Uncle Ged’* whose daughter ‘Lorraine’  Pearse ( nee Eleanor Lorraine Jenkins) married cousin ‘Bob’ (Robert Wyatt Pearse). Bob and Lorraine’,  brother Tom (& wife Margaret)  Stan (and wife Rilla) and Edmund (and wife Jean) farmed east of Donald and were well known to me. Barney (Edmund Palmer Pearse, born 1995) who married  Bethel (nee Mary Ethel McWhirter) was W. G.’s last born also farmed east of Donald.

My ‘Grandmother Golding’ was born Amelia Geake Pearse on 11/12/1897. She was the second of five children born to John Thomas (J.T.) Pearse *, who I remember reasonably well, as he died when I was six in 1956. He lived for much of his later life with my grandparents in Donald since his wife ‘Lillian’ (born Lily Lucretia Caddy 25/7/1870) died 27 years before J.T. at only 58 years in 1929. J.T., my great grandfather was generally known to the family in my generation as ‘Grandpa Pearse’ and was quite a character. He smoked a pipe and had a bad habit of letting the pipe burn on through his waistcoat pocket through which he had a pocket watch on a gold chain. He took many solo fishing trips to the Murray River and beyond.

My Grandma Golding’s elder brother was ‘Uncle Os’ *, born John Oswald Pearse on 1/1/1896 and died 10/9/1988 without having children. His wife ‘Auntie Het’ *, born Henrietta Fleming Kerr on 1/11/1895 had family in Heywood and died at the great age of 96 on 13/7/1992. Both, particularly Auntie Het are well remembered, including by our own children as a grand and thoughtful lady. Het and Os travelled extensively overseas. Os was a keen and experienced breeder and judge of poultry. They were off the power grid on their farm for many decades with a very early Dunlite 32 volt wind turbine.

My grandmother Amelia had three younger siblings: a sister Phillipa Lily Pearse (born 22/12/1899), Thomas Geddie Pearse, (known to me as ‘Uncle Ged’ *) and my ‘Uncle Bill’ * colloquially known to some as ‘the flamin’ Uncle Willie’, properly called W.N.L. (William Nicholas Langman Pearse). Uncle Bill and ‘Auntie Leila’ * (born Leila Ada Ellis 2/9/1905) lived at Devon Park and had two sons. Like het and Os who lived on a farm nearby, they travelled widely and were very keen photographers. Auntie Leila’s ‘slide nights’ during my childhood were an early version of ‘death by Powerpoint’.

My ‘Cousin Billy’, William Ellis Pearse (born May1933) farmed with his father W.N.L. Pearse at Devon Park before marrying and moving into Donald with his wife Pat (born Patricia Jane Weeks). They had three sons: Grant, Aaron and Drew. John Stanley Pearse, their younger son born in August 1935 lived in Melbourne, worked for a time as a driving instructor and did not marry.

The Caddy Connection

 My connection to the ‘Caddy’ and Pearse family (above) is complicated by an earlier intermarriage between the Pearse and Caddy family in the 1860s. Firstly, as outlined above, I have Caddy ancestry via Lily Lucretia Caddy, known as ‘Lillian’, my paternal great grandmother who married my great grandfather J.T. Pearse in 1895. Lillian died quite young in 1929.

Secondly, Lillian was one of fourteen children (nine girls and five boys) born to William Caddy (born 18/11/1839, died 1906), his wife being Phillipa Langman Pearse (born 29/5/1845, died 1923/4). William and Phillipa married on 21/1/1867. William Caddy was himself one of 12 children from a marriage at Wendron, Cornwall 29/11/1831 between John Caddy (born 1810, died 1887) and Ann Perry (who died 28/11/1869).

A little about John and Ann, who are in effect my ‘great-great-great grandparents’ (following my Grandma Golding’s line) might be of some interest. John Caddy was born 10/6/1810 in Cornwall, England. He was a tin miner and engineer. His son William Caddy (who married Phillipa Langman Pearse at Ballarat on 21/1/1867) was also born in Cornwall. William’s father came to Melbourne, Australia with two of his brothers (Richard and William) on an unassisted passage in 1854. His mother and 8 siblings arrived in Melbourne, Australia on the Maldon three years later to join their father at 7 Tress Street in Mt Pleasant, Ballarat on 28/7/1857.

William Caddy and Phillippa had 14 children between 1867and 1889, nine of whom were girls including Lilly Lucretia Caddy who married my great grandfather J.T Pearse. The Caddy family history complied some decades ago by Ingrid Forrester in Southern River, Western Australia chronicles the literally thousands of Caddy descendants from Devon and Cornwall and runs to 90 pages. Many present day Caddy descendants are either in Victoria (including Ballarat) or to Western Australia, where many of the miners went as the Kalgoorlie-Boulder gold rush took over from the Victorian gold rushes by the early 1900s.

Keith Spence & The Lane Cove Men’s Shed

Keith Spence and the Lane Cove Men’s Shed

Barry Golding’s account of the history of the Lane Cove Men’s Shed in my Men’s Shed Movement book (published during 2015) was based on documents on hand to early 2015.

In late 2015 Helen Johnston-Lord, from Warnervale, New South Wales) contacted me asking whether I was aware of her father, Keith Spence’s role in the very early days of the Lane Cove Men’s Shed. Helen subsequently provided me with copies of original documents and recollections about her father, cited below, that confirm that Keith (aged 84 in mid-1997) certainly played an important role in shaping the Lane Cove Men’s Shed at least 17 months before its official opening in December 1998.

Sharon Pearce, the then Lane Cove Council’s Community Development Officer also played a hitherto poorly documented role, as these new documents confirm. Sharon Pearce cited as the contact person about ‘the shed project’ soon after the Shed officially opened (in an article in the Sydney Weekly, dated Jan 12-18, 1999, with the header ‘Opening the door on men and their sheds’ with a picture of ‘Lane Cove resident Keith Spence tooling about at the men’s shed’. In the August 15-11 2000 issue of the Sydney Weekly (p.10) is a photograph of ‘Keith Spence, 87, Ted Donnelly, 66 and Bruce Brown, 71’ citing Ruth van Herk as ‘the project co-ordinator’.

These documents confirm that the Lane Cove Men’s Shed was being planned at around the same time (in mid-1997) as the Men’s Shed in Tongala, the latter being the oldest officially opened anywhere in a community setting with ‘Men’s Shed’ in the organisation name as the ‘Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’ on July 26 1998, approximately five month earlier than Lane Cove.

The early rationale for the Lane Cove Men’s Shed

The Northern Herald article headed ‘Strong support for Lane Cove ‘Men’s Shed’ Idea,’ dated July 10 1997 (p.3) is very early indeed and says the following in the second paragraph:

A unique idea to establish a Men’s Shed in Lane Cove has been met with enthusiastic support from older men in the community, many of whom no longer have that special retreat. The brainchild of the council’s community development officer, Sharon Pearce, the Men’s Shed will offer a meeting place where older men can socialise and carry out activities.

Whether Sharon Pearce was actually ‘the brainchild’ for the Men’s Shed is debatable. Keith’s daughter Helen Johnston-Lord wrote recently that that Ian Longbottom (also actively involved in the early days of the Lane Cove Men’s Shed) ‘… commented that it was certainly NOT Sharon Pearce’s brainchild’.

The July 1997 newspaper article cites Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from 1995 confirming the relatively high proportion of older people in Lane Cove, as well as research commissioned by the State Government in 1996 which found that men over 60 who lived alone spent 84 per cent of the time on their own. Sharon Pearce was cited as saying that:

A lot of men were saying that they really missed their place, that the domestic domain for that particular generation [of men] was the domain of their partners

Towards the end of the article ‘Mark Thomson, who wrote Blokes and Sheds’ is quoted as saying ‘it’s not what you actually do in the shed but the potential of what you can do’.

As of July 10 1997 ‘… the plan was to build a “homey little shed” [in Lane Cove] with a grant from the department of Health and Family Services and give local retired men a say in its design and use.’

For context, only four days earlier than this newspaper article and 700km away in Victoria (on 4 July 1997) Ron McLeod of the Tongala RSL was penning support for the late Dick McGowan’s already well developed proposal to create what I still contend is the first Men’s Shed by that name to open in a community setting anywhere in the world.

The back-story about Keith Spence

Peter Keith Spence, widely known as ‘Keith’, was born in Sydney on 14 Feb 1913 and died 16 Sept 2002 at the age of 89. By the 1930s Keith was working as an electrician, and was married in Lane Cove in 1936. He later worked for Frank Packer at the Daily Telegraph and developed an interest in sailing, building and racing a 30-foot sailboat.

To quote from parts of his daughter’s (Helen Johnston-Lord’s) biography of Keith:

After he retired in 1979 he took to woodwork. … In late 1992 [he] was involved in an almost fatal motor vehicle accident. … [He] survived although he had to give up driving and was a little lost about what to do with himself. Never fear. He became part of the Greenwich Day Centre and was quickly helping with activities, a welcome addition with his fresh approach to life.

At the ripe old age of 84 [1997] he had an idea about a place for men and he was asked to help set up the Lane Cove Men’s Shed. He had been such an inspiration to many people and some of the contacts from his past thought the idea of men getting together might work in the wider community. Just a few days before being told he had lung cancer, he was at the Shed.

The following are some pertinent quotes taken from a longer article headed ‘Vale Keith Spence: Men’s Shed Patriarch Passes on’ in The Village Observer (October 2002, p. 20).

Keith, often referred to as the “Guru” or the “Boss”, was a founding member of the Men’s Shed and an integral member of the team. Keith’s shared vision of a Community Shed which would provide a space for where older men could come and share some time with each other and lean skills together, was an active passion in the last three years. …

A generosity of spirit and an ability to cheerfully impart knowledge were the characteristics of this man who inspired so many worthwhile community projects and helped to emerge the current ethos of the Men’s Shed – which is to be of service to the community by making useful and interesting wooden items for a variety of institutions while having fun and enjoying some company. …

Keith has bequeathed the Lane Cove Community a valuable legacy. His belief was that we could all make a difference and each of [us] could bring some joy to another was underpinned by an impish sense of humour that inspired some amusing projects to generate fun in families and communities. His spirit of generous sharing of knowledge and skills is now integral to the Men’s Shed community.

… We would suggest that by now St Peter would have been co-opted to find some space so that Keith could form the Heavenly Men’s Shed so that the blokes could get together in a familiar environment and have a bit of a chat.

‘Getting of wisdom’ International Exchange & Conferences mid-Feb 2017


Information about the Exchange & Conferences involving researchers, policy makers and practitioners involved in learning in later life from Europe , New Zealand and Australia can be found below:

Getting of Wisdom, Learning in Later life 12-18 Feb 2017

The link also includes registration details. It is very simple to register and pay on line now of the Full Exchange or any of the Conference via the link, above, on ALA website. The call for Conference papers is now open via the same link.

Here is some early information (accurate to 5 Sept 2016) as ‘a taster’, oriented particularly to those from outside of Australia who are wondering what is all about and what they will experience if they register for the full Exchange program: ExchangeTasterSept2016

Why barrygoanna?

Why barrygoanna?

How and why  I came to take on my official middle name Goanna in place of the middle name John on my Birth Certificate is a long story and one I have not previously told in full. Half of the story is about Bill Jones, a mine caretaker at Coopers Creek , and a play on the surname of William Baragwanath, a famous Victorian geologist. The other half of the story is about me taking a ‘stage name’ in Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band. The whole story helps explain why barrygoanna is deliberately embedded in the name of my website.

The ‘geology’ part of the story

It was the early 1970s. I was studying for an Honours Degree in Geology that involved carefully mapping the rocks in the wild and beautiful area around the tiny and isolated former gold mining township of Walhalla in Gippsland with Clive Willman (several years later to become the Sound Technician for Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band). We rented the cottage above the Walhalla Band Rotunda that year and spend a memorable year exploring the rugged and beautiful area looking for rock outcrops: by car, on foot and wading up creeks and rivers. Sometimes we would drive all the way back to the Geology School at Melbourne University at night and cut our thin sections, and head back, sort of like in the Elves and the Shoemaker. This was the era well before GPS and computers. Rock outcrops were located by tape and compass survey, our theses were typed manually on a typewriter and the maps they contained were coloured by hand.

One of the important outcrops we mapped that year was near Coopers Creek, an isolated bush township on the Thompson River. The only large building left in Coopers Creek was the former Coopers Creek Copper Mine Hotel, with the recently reopened Coopers Creek platinum and copper mine on the opposite bank, accessible either by ‘flying fox’ or by a long, steep and winding back road from Walhalla via the former mining settlement of ‘Happy go Lucky’.

Bill Jones, something of a weather beaten, rough local diamond, was then the caretaker at the Coopers Creek mine. He spent a lot of his time patrolling the area with his rifle, occasionally shooting goannas that were commonly found sunning themselves on the rocks along the Thompson River. The Thomson at that stage had not been tamed by the now huge Thompson Dam upstream. Bill also played a mean accordion, including when we played some evenings at the Walhalla Hotel.

Bill Jones had been in the area a long time and enjoyed telling us, as budding young geologists, all of the famous geologists he knew of or had met who previously mapped the area, including [David] Thomas [1902-1978], (Dr Don) Spencer Jones, [Hyman] Herman [1875-1962] and [William] Baragwanath (1878-1966]. Bill’s likely quite accurate pronunciation of ‘Baragwanath’ sounded to us like ‘barra -gwanna’ hence barry goanna. We fantasised that in years to come Bill would add Willman and Golding to his small list of geological heroes. Clive has indeed gone on the become a well-known geologist, and recipient of the prestigious Selwyn Medal. I enjoy (and make up stories about) rocks that I see as I ride my bicycle but they are no longer my academic forte.

The back story of the amazing William Baragwanath

William Baragwanath (1878-1966) had died only around five years before we met Bill, but he was still was something of a geological ‘legend ‘in Victoria, for good reason as summarised below. He was born at Durham Lead near Ballarat and learnt his craft as a field and mining geologist and surveyor at Ballarat School of Mines. Fellow geologist John Talent wrote in 1979 in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 7) that:

In 1897 Baragwanath was assistant surveyor and draftsman in the department’s survey of the Walhalla goldfield, and was in charge from 1898 until 1900. Successive geologic, topographic and mine surveys of the Castlemaine-Chewton, Aberfeldy, Berringa and Ballarat goldfields earned him an enviable reputation for precision, perseverance and attention to detail, qualities he was to require of his juniors. Late in 1916 he began investigating the La Trobe Valley brown-coal region, selecting bore sites, carrying out topographic surveys and assisting in management of the coal-winning operations; he accumulated much of the data used later by the State Electricity Commission to establish the Yallourn open-cut mine and power-house.

Baragwanath developed an unrivalled and encyclopaedic knowledge of the mining geology of Victoria. His memory for mine, bore and old assay data, the modifications of mine names (even of obscure ‘scratchings’), and the chronology of discoveries, incidents and personalities became legendary; it was primarily for this reason ‘Mr Barry’ was retained as departmental consultant. His advice was highly valued by the mining industry because his opinions were invariably judicious and his optimism guarded. It was his pleasure to provide anyone with detailed information on geology and mining in Victoria, for geology and mining were his life; his favourite hobby was building model ships.

Baragwanath had argued from analogy with oil-bearing sequences elsewhere in the world that the Tertiary rocks of east Gippsland could be petroliferous. In 1922 the Department of Mines tested his theory by drilling a line of bores west of the Gippsland lakes; it was an unsuccessful experiment, but he lived to see his theory vindicated when off-shore drilling of the same sequence from 1964 led to the discovery of the Bass Strait oil and gas reservoirs.

Quite a man.

The ‘Mulga Bills Bicycle Band’ part of the story

The same year that Clive Willman and I were mapping the rocks around Walhalla, Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band that I was one of the foundation members of was beginning its transition from being a very ‘part time’ Melbourne University Folk Club-inspired ‘Australian folk band’, to becoming a full time professional touring band well into the mid 1970s. (Co-incidentally several members of the Bushwhackers Band, also mostly university students, but from La Trobe University were well known in Australia in that same era, regularly visited the Walhalla area).

The tradition in Australian country music circles had been for some touring artists to take one or more stage names, for example David Kirkpatrick became Slim Dusty and Roger Hogan became Dusty Rankin. The Baragwanath / Barry-Goanna name gave me a ready-made stage name. A good friend, Liz Cox, screen printed barry goanna on the front of a black sleeveless top which I later took to wearing whilst on stage and while riding the band’s penny farthing bicycle into the many towns we played at all around Australia.

I should declare before I proceed that do really like goannas, and was very concerned that Bill Jones claimed to regularly shot them for no obvious reason, though they are predators. For those not from Australia, goannas (the word derives from an Australian alteration of iguana found in South America) are a family of rather large monitor lizards (with 25 species ranging from 20cm to 2m) with sharp teeth and long claws. The goannas at Coopers Creek we’re very big.

At first Barry Goanna was just a catchy stage name, but a year or so later I came round to the idea that I was more comfortable having ‘Goanna’ than ‘John’ as my middle name, and proceeded to change it formally to Barry Goanna Golding by Statutory Declaration. I do enjoy having the endemic Australian name, Goanna on my Australian passport and drivers licence. There was a lot of tittering in Melbourne University’s Wilson Hall in 1999 at my PhD graduation ceremony when my full name was read out. It also makes for some interesting exchanges in formal ‘name checking situations’ such as when voting.

I figured that exercising agency and changing my name was a simple but powerful way of defining who I was and had become. John had biblical associations I was really uncomfortable with. It was only after I had formally changed it to Goanna that I realised that my father, commonly known as ‘Jack’ (=John) might have been disappointed his eldest son had dropped his birth name. I should note here that I have never really liked my first name, Barry, and the name has progressively fallen out of favour across Australia and most other countries for a range of reasons, in part because of the less likable personalities lived and created by Barry Humphries, Barry Crocker and Barry McKenzie. Most ‘Barry’s are like me, mostly over 60.

In part for reasons alluded to above we decided as parents to give our first two children, Dajarra (named after a small and remote town near Mt Isa) and Karri (the beautiful Western Australian eucalypt) only first names, providing the opportunity to later add a name that they liked, in the middle or instead. We partly softened our stance by 1985. While our daughter Tanja also got an Australian place name (Tanja is a tiny, bucolic hamlet in the NSW south coast near Bega), she also got ‘Rose’.

A November 2019 update on Bill Jones from Bill Power

The early part of my post prompted Bill Power to contact me about his recollections of Bill Jones at the Coopers  Creek mine in the early 1970s and comment that he loved reading this post. I have pasted his email note to me in full in italics,  below, with Bill’s generous permission.

“In the 1970s, my partner, her two sons, I and my daughter used to frequently camp at the Coopers Creek  copper mine and got to know Bill Jones quite well. My partner was an art teacher at Syndal Tech at the time and got to know Bruce Cozens who, although a geologist by profession, was a science teacher at Syndal Tech. He and his partner Liz Loder lived close by. Bruce had done some work for the Copper Mine at some stage and Liz thought the clay in the area could be used to make things. Liz and Bruce had camped at the copper mine before in a tent. Bruce and I had many a long philosophical discussion.

We were introduced to Bill Jones who lived in a filthy shack at the mine-site. By filthy, I mean it was absolutely black inside – soot from his fire. Not considering ourselves such hardy types, my family opted to live in the miner’s quarters that were in pretty good condition and provided us with somewhere to sleep and somewhere to eat. We soon had the gas bottles connected, the stove lit and the hot water service for the showers working. Liz and Bruce always preferred their tent. To preserve the gas, we always cooked outside in camp-ovens. Bill usually had something he wanted to contribute to the camp oven and ate quite a few meals with us – probably the only solid food he ever had.

I gather that Bill’s drinking was legendary: if he felt the need for some protein – then what else but Advocaat could provide it?  Green Chartreuse fulfilled his occasional need for greens and there were any number of drinks made from fruit for desert. I think his favourite was Cherry Brandy. Despite his drinking habits, he used to tear down the track to the mine [via the back road to Walhalla] at break-neck speed in his old ute, worrying everyone who knew him. He seemed to have no shortage of friends who often braved the track to drop in and see him.  I gather Coopers Creek mine paid him in shares for his work as caretaker. He once showed me his share certificate and asked me how much he was worth. He had quite a few shares worth a few cents each – typical ‘penny dreadfuls’. He may have had some other source of income because he was forever buying books for the libraries of local schools. I never saw Bill with a gun and if he had one, he never mentioned it.

He was a great raconteur and during meal-times would tell us stories of times past: of the battery cam shaft that was being delivered from somewhere in NSW to a mine in Victoria when it fell off the truck and got a bit bent – the locals figured if it was built up a bit here and ground down a bit there it would be usable in a few days. But and old mine-worker knew the answer. He built a fire, threw on the shaft and covered it with dirt.  Next morning it was fixed! [Reminded me of a friend who worked for a company that made compressors: they had to ship shafts out from England and my friend had the job of nursing them in the hold giving them a quarter turn every day (like champagne) so they wouldn’t develop a permanent bend]. Another time, Bill told us how to make (in an emergency) the end for a Furphy water tank. You dig a circular hole in the ground; cover it with a sheet of iron; put sandbags on top of the iron and throw a stick of dynamite in the hole. The iron develops a nicely rounded shape.

He told us a story when during the depression he and a mate were desperately hungry when they came across a cow. The killed the cow, ate what they could of it and buried the rest. Several weeks  months, (who cares?) they were so hungry they decided to dig it up again. After cutting off the blue rind that had formed, it was still quite tasty!

Once we built a camp fire and sat around it. Old Bill astonished us with his ability on a blues harp (a small harmonica). I didn’t know it could be played like this – it sounded like 3 people playing it.

There was a diesel-driven pump that Bill used to fill his water tank which was nearly empty. It had become buried in sand  during recent flooding of the Thompson River. Bruce and I dug it out and, much to our amazement, were able to start it and fill Bill’s tank again.

One day Liz decided to build a Raku kiln from the fire-bricks used to line the on-site cupola furnace. We left peep-holes so she could observe the pyrometric cones she’d brought along to ensure the right temperature. Bruce and I chopped wood madly for hours  and Liz, looking at the cones through to peep-holes kept calling for more. When at last we retrieved the bits and pieces of pottery from the kiln, it was all burnt. So much for pyrometric cones!

Once, when the river was very low, we waded across it to investigate the Coopers Creek hotel. It had no-one living it; but was still in pretty good nick and wouldn’t have required much effort to make it able to accommodate a few people.

Another day we had another geologist friend who stayed with us: John Raivars. He was working on Thompson River dam which  was being built at the time. The kids thought he was wonderful because of his ability to name rocks and were constantly picking up rocks for him to identify. “That, my boy”, he would say solemnly, “Is what we geologists call Rock Stone“. The kids would run off – happy with their new-found knowledge. Another time, he showed us a photograph of man’s first attempt to fly a 200 tonne truck. Apparently one of these trucks ran over the edge of the dam wall. The driver managed to jump out in time; but it ended up landing fair and square on a Foreman’s ute reducing it to a white line about an inch thick. The workers were delighted.”



‘Men’s Shed’ Research Update: all articles 2015- July 2016


Men’s Shed Research Published Internationally, 2015 to mid 2016

Adjunct Professor Barry Golding

The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book published in 2015 (Barry Golding, Ed: Champaign: Common Ground) lists all literature (103 total articles) about Men’s Sheds published between 1995 and 2014 (Table 9, pages 423-421).

The table below lists all literature (21 articles: 18 published in 2015, 3 published to July 2016) published in the 18 months between January 2015 and July 2016 thatincludes ‘Men’s Shed’ in the title. The table, sorted by first Author uses the same categorisation of articles as in Barry Golding’s Men’s Shed Movement (2015) book.

If anyone is aware of research articles that have been published but are not included in his book or this updated list, please advise Barry Golding

 Published Men’s Shed-related Articles, January 2015 to July 2016 
AUTHORS Article & Publication details Study Type & Data Source Year Status
Ang, S., Cavanagh, J., Southcombe, A., Bartram, T., Marjoribanks, T. & McNeil, N. ‘Human resource management, social connectedness and health and well-being of older and retired men: The role of Men’s Sheds’. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, pp.1-31. M: Australian survey, 200+ Men’s Shed; 419 shedder responses, 162 Shed leaders. 2015 A*
Carragher, L. Golding, B. ‘Older Men as Learners: Irish Men’s Sheds as an Intervention’, Adult Education Quarterly, 1-17, On line. 0741713615570894. D: Irish empirical research, 30 Men’s Sheds, Ireland. 2015 A* 1
Cavanagh, J., Shaw, A. & Bartram, T. ‘An investigation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s learning through Men’s Sheds in Australia’. Australian Aboriginal Studies, (1), pp.55-67. I: 15 men’s groups, 45 men. 2016 A*
Cordier, R., Wilson, N., Stancliffe, R., MacCallum, J., Vaz, S., Buchanan, A., Ciccarelli, M. & Falkmer, T. ‘Formal intergenerational mentoring at Australian Men’s Sheds: A targeted survey about mentees, mentors, programmes and quality’. Health & Social Care in the Community. M: 40 Australian Men’s Sheds, 387 mentees. 2015 A* 1
Culph, J., Wilson, N., Cordier, R. & Stancliffe, R. ‘Men’s Sheds and the experience of depression in older Australian men’. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 62(5), pp.306-315. H: 12 men, 3 Australian Men’s Sheds. 2015 A* 3
Ford, S., Scholz, B. & Lu, V. ‘Social shedding: Identification and health of men’s sheds users’. Health Psychology, 34(7), p.775-778 H: Survey, 322 Australian shedders. 2015 A* 2
Golding, B. ‘Men learning through life (and Men’s Sheds)’. Adult Learning, 26(4), p.170. L, C: Literature-based. 2015 A*
Golding, B. (Ed.) The men’s shed movement: The company of men. Champaign: Illinois C, O, R: History & Scoping of Men’s Sheds internationally. 2015 Book
Golding, B. & Carragher, L. ‘Community Men’s Sheds and Informal Learning: An Exploration of their Gendered Roles’, in J. Ostrouch-Kaminska & C. Vieira, Private World(s): Gender and Informal Learning of Adults. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. C: Australian & Irish empirical research from multiple Men’s Sheds. 2015 B
Hansji, N., Wilson, N. & Cordier, R. ‘Men’s Sheds: Enabling environments for Australian men living with and without long‐term disabilities’. Health & Social Care in the Community, 23(3), pp.272-281. D: On Australian Men’s Shed, 12 interviews. 2015 A* 9
md consulting Learning about Community Capacity Building from the Spread of Men’s Sheds in Scotland. Dungarven: md consulting. B: Scoping study, 42 Sheds, Scotland. 2015 B
Milligan, C., Neary, D., Payne, S. et al. ‘Older Men and Social Activity: A Scoping Review of Men’s Sheds and other Gendered Interventions’, Aging and Society, 1-29. R: Critical review of 31 Men’s Sheds papers. 2015 A* 2
Milligan, C., Payne, S., Bingley, A. et al. ‘Place and Wellbeing: Shedding Light in Activity Interventions for Older Men’, Ageing and Society, 35 (1), (published on line Aug 2013). P: Program evaluation, Mixed method, 3 Sheds, UK. 2015 A*
Misan, G. & Oosterbroek, C. ‘South Australian Men’s Sheds: Who, what and why?’ New Male Studies, 42 South Australian Men’s Sheds, 163 shedders. 2015 A
Moylan, M., Carey, L., Blackburn, R. & Hayes, R. ‘The Men’s Shed: Providing biopsychosocial and spiritual support’. Journal of Religion and Health, 54(1), pp.221-234. O: One Men’s Shed, Melbourne, interviews, 21 men 2015 A* 6
Schroeder, J, Sowden, J. & Watt, J. Social Return on Investment: The Westhill and District Men’s Shed, Scotland, Scottish Men’s Sheds Association. S: Case study, one Scottish Men’s Shed. 2015 R
Southcombe, A., Cavanagh, J. & Bartram, T. ‘Retired men and Men’s Sheds in Australia’. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(8), pp.972-989. M: Interviews, Australian Men’s Shed groups 2015 A*
Waling, A & Fildes, D. Don’t fix what ain’t broke’: evaluating the effectiveness of a Men’s Shed in inner‐regional Australia. Health & Social Care in the Community. Online 20 June 2016. DOI: 10.1111/hsc.12365. H: One Australian Men’s Shed, 22 surveys, 20 interviews. 2016 A*
Wilson, N., Cordier, R., Doma, K., Misan, G. & Vaz, S., ‘Men’s Sheds function and philosophy: Towards a framework for future research and men’s health promotion’. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 26(2), pp.133-141. H: International Men’s Shed online survey. 2015 A* 3
Wilson, N., Cordier, R., Parsons, R., Vaz, S. & Buchanan, A. ‘Men with disabilities: A cross sectional survey of health promotion, social inclusion and participation at community Men’s Sheds’. Disability and Health Journal, 9(1), pp.118-126. D: International Men’s Shed online survey. 2016 A*
Wilson, N., Stancliffe, R., Gambin, N., Craig, D., Bigby, C. and Balandin, S. ‘A case study about the supported participation of older men with lifelong disability at Australian community-based Men’s Sheds’. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 40(4), pp.330-341. C/D: 9 Older shedders. 2015 A* 2

KEY: Status’ column: A: Published Journal article (* indicates peer review); B: Reports, book chapters or thesis; C: Conference paper; D: Evaluation document; E: Other. The number indicates how often the article had been cited to 21 July 2016. ‘Study Type & Data Source’ column: First letter indicates the main themes explored in the article: C: Critical; L: Learning; D: Disability; H: Health; I: Indigenous; M: Management; S Case Study; P: Program Evaluation; R: Literature review; O: Other.


Running a ruler over a Men’s Shed?

Is there a standard way of ‘running a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed?

Barry Golding

(Comments are Welcome)

Governments and other funding bodies would really like to be able to have a standard ‘Quality Assurance’ or ‘Outcome Framework’, in effect to ‘run a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed and check whether it is ‘up to scratch’. This brief article provides a possible, reasonably simple response about what such a framework might look like, and have ‘at its core’. I also urges some caution.

As all shedders know there is no one right way to run a ruler over anything. Whichever direction or dimension you measure, it will come up with a different answer. So too it is with a Men’s Shed.

So which basic dimensions of Men’s Sheds are most valuable?

I suggest two simple ways of ‘running a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed to ensure it provides quality outcomes for men and the community. Both can be asked as simple questions, and apply no matter where and what the main purpose or activity happens in the Shed.

  1. “To what extent is the Men’s Shed inclusive and welcoming of all men?”

The main reason this question is important is that social isolation is the most important factor affecting health and wellbeing, at any age and in any situation. If a Men’s Shed and its shedders are not able to reach out to men from diverse background and needs, it is not fulfilling its full potential.

  1. “To what extent does the Men’s Shed work with the local community?”

This question is important because no Men’s Shed is sustainable without understanding and supporting the community, and vice versa. Grassroots community organisations reap what they sow.


  • There is no simple ‘number’ that tells you how a particular Men’s Shed measures up against either of these questions (or against other Men’s Sheds). Since all Men’s Sheds are different, ‘a one-size-fits-all’ survey or evaluation method is neither desirable not possible.
  • The two questions above might be not only asked of shedders, but also of people (men and women) in the community. The questions would be best framed as an ongoing conversation.
  • Surveys and evaluations, using these two questions as a starting point, will be most valuable if shedders are consulted from start to finish of the process.
  • It is possible to ask (and answer) other useful and informative questions about the Men’s Shed, that the Shed, the community, governments and funding organisations want answered. This is possible and desirable because Men’s Sheds, like a table or chair, have multiple dimensions. The more dimensions and outcomes you value and therefore factor in, the more you will come to understand its form and function.

Tongala Program for 16 Nov 2015 Celebration of the Dick McGowan Men’s Shed & Book Launch

‘Bringing it all Back Home’

 Celebration of the World’s First Men’s Shed &

Launch of ‘The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men’ book

1-3.30pm Monday 16 November, 2015, Tongala Aged Care Service ‘Activity Centre’, adjacent to the Tongala Men’s Shed, Tongala, Victoria, Australia

The ‘Tongala Men’s Shed’, officially opened in July 1998 as ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’, is identified in Professor Barry Golding’s recently published Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book as the first Men’s Shed opened by that name* in a community setting anywhere in the world. (* ‘The Shed’ opened behind an Aged Care Centre in Goolwa, South Australia in 1993).

With 1,500 Sheds open globally by November 2015, one third of which are outside of Australia, and one new Shed opening globally on average every day, the Men’s Shed in Tongala was indeed a ‘Great Beginning’, as the late Dick McGowan wrote in 1998. The full story and history of Men’s Sheds globally is included in the book.

It is fitting that this celebratory Victorian launch of the first definitive book about the now international Movement is taking place next to the first ever Men’s Shed. Hon Dr Sharman Stone, Member for Murray who launched in the Shed over 17 years ago has returned to launch the book. In many senses, this event is a celebration of what Dick McGowan and the Tongala community created. The Men’s Shed template, clearly defined and elaborated by McGowan in 1998, has become the template for a now global movement.

This public event celebrates the role and impact of all previous and current Victorian Men’s Sheds, and welcomes several early and influential people involved in Men’s Sheds and the Movement in Victoria. It has been organised by the Victorian Men’s Shed Association (VMSA) fully supported by the Tongala and District Memorial Aged Care Service, the broader Tongala and Victorian shedder communities.

Our special guest of honour is Ruth McGowan, a long time and highly respected shedder in the Tongala Men’s Shed and widow of the late and great Dick McGowan.

Paul Sladdin, current Board member of the Australian Men’s Shed Association and former President of the Victorian Men’s Shed Association (current Deputy Mayor of Mansfield Shire) is acting as MC.

Copies of the book are available for sale and signing from Barry Golding at the launch for $40. Additional copies can also be ordered (including postage for $50) via Barry, orders to with a preferred Postal Address. Much more information available via


Public Celebration & Book Launch, 16 Nov 2015 from 1.00-3.30pm

 Access to the Tongala Aged Care Service Activity Centre is via the front entrance of Koraleigh off Purdey Street, Tongala. Extra parking is available around the back in Memorial Drive (but avoid people’s nature strips, and come in the back door).

Allow an hour and a quarter drive north from Bendigo.

 1.00pm Welcome Cuppa

  • 1.30pm: Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome. (MC, Paul Sladdin, Board Member, AMSA).
  • 1.35pm: Welcome to Tongala and District Memorial Aged Care Service. (Sara Tee)
  • 1.40pm: Introduction to The Men’s Shed MovementBook and its author. (Paul Sladdin).
  • 1.50 pm: The importance of ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’ and Dick McGowan’s role. (Professor Barry Golding, Federation University Australia, Patron AMSA).
  • 2.20pm: Address and Book launch. (Hon Dr Sharman Stone, MP, Member for Murray).
  • 2.40pm: Response from Ruth McGowan. (Tongala Men’s Shed).
  • 2.50pm: ‘The important role of VMSA and AMSA in shaping the national Men’s Shed Movement’. (Paul Sladdin).
  • 3.00pm: Afternoon Tea.

3.30pm: CLOSE

Informal tours of the Tongala Men’s Shed with its original opening plaque as the ‘Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’ are available before and after the formalities.

Sincere thanks to:

  • Tongala and District Memorial Aged Care Service (Jean Courtney & Sara Tee).
  • Hon Dr Sharman Stone, MP, MHR, Member for Murray.
  • Victorian Men’s Shed Association (Ric Blackburn CEO & Phil Keily, President).
  • Australian Men’s Shed Association (David Helmers, CEO & Victorian Board Director, Paul Sladdin).
  • Tongala Men’s Shed and shedders
  • All other Men’s Sheds participating in the Tongala event.
  • Ruth McGowan, Tongala.
  • Federation University Australia, Ballarat (Barry Golding).
  • Irish, UK and New Zealand Men’s Sheds Associations who assisted with research for the book, including chapter contributors John Evoy (Ireland), Mike Jenn (UK) and (Dr Neil Bruce (New Zealand).

 The Men’s Shed Movement book contains the complete history of Men’s Sheds in community settings in the world: from Australia, Ireland, the UK & New Zealand; the development of all national & state associations, 90 case studies of ‘early’, ‘innovative’, ‘remarkable’ & ‘new and cutting edge’ Men’s Sheds plus the evidence base about Men’s Sheds and the current trajectory of the Movement worldwide. It includes 50 photos and original documents. All Sheds registered globally to mid 2015 are listed in an Appendix.

Buying the Men’s Shed Movement book in Australia

The book costs $40 plus $10 for postage within Australia.

if you want to order a copy send Barry Golding an email to with your preferred Postal Address. You will be sent the book with an invoice with two payment options: by BSB bank transfer or cheque.

There are two book shops where you can by a copy in Victoria. The Book Barn in Daylesford has copies for $40. Readings in Carlton has copies on sale for $59.95.


Dick McGowan: A few remarkable ‘back stories’

Barry Golding, 5 November 2015

The role the late Dick McGowan played in starting up the first Men’s Shed opened by that name in the world in Tongala, Victoria, Australia in July 1998 is covered in considerable detail in my recently published Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book (14 pages, between 114 & 127). Indeed the ‘Company of Men’ idea comes directly from McGowan’s genius.

On page 123 of my book I say ‘One day someone will write more about the many other facets of Dick McGowan’. This brief account, created in advance of the Victorian launch on my book in Tongala on 16 November 2015 goes some small way towards doing this. It is based mainly on interviews and documents collected in 2015 after my Men’s Shed Movement book manuscript was finalised, including from conversations in mid 2015 with his remarkable and generous widow, Ruth McGowan. My particular thanks for much of this new information to former Gordon Dowell (who worked with Dick in Tongala, now living in Newstead, Victoria), Lynne Cooper (now in Bendigo), Alan Dureau from Tongala (who was Principal in Tongala when Dick McGowan began work there) and Rob and Olya Willis from Forbes, NSW.

Dick McGowan was a widely travelled and highly regarded concert and dance band pianist and entertainer, sometimes teaming up with Graeme Watt, a bush poet, as the Coolstore Concert Company. Dick was born in Maroubra in Sydney in 1940. He was taught piano by a nun at the school he attended in Castlemaine, Victoria and played in his first dance band at age 13. At band gigs, at dances and in venues such as the Leagues Club foyer in Moama he would persuasively talk and network with patrons to get them to support and donate to any of his many community projects.

One of the most powerful new documents to elaborate on Dick’s philosophy about the Men’s Shed, opened in his honour as the Dick McGowan Men’s Shed in July 1998 surfaced via Ruth McGowan after the text of the book had been finalised. In words typed by Dick dated 27 May 1999 and signed off as ‘The Company of Men’, McGowan used capitalisation for emphasis when he noted that the list of things that might take place in the Shed

… is endless. WE SHOULD NOT THINK OF THE SHED AS ONLY A WORK-SHOP. It is an activity centre, a meeting place, a place for discussion and argument, a place for companionship – in short a part of HOME.


Dick was two-year trained as a primary school teacher at Bendigo Teachers College in 1958-9. He was posted to schools at Tarnagulla, Kananook (Frankston) then Dingley before the family moved to Tongala as a ‘temporary move’: they had intended to move on to Wangaratta but they never made it. Dick and Ruth in married January 1963 and had nine children including two sets of twins. Their third son, Peter died at 8 and a half months while they were in Frankston. Ruth became ‘the essential rock’ at home for much of Dick’s working life. Their other children are today all grown up and spread very widely.

Dick was a highly regarded primary school teacher. An unsourced and undated newspaper cutting headed ‘Dick’s near the top of class’ noted that Mr Richard McGowan (then at Tongala Consolidated School, age 41) was being considered in the final selection of the Victorian Teacher of the Year award. The evidence cited in the article went back almost three decades before his creation of the first ever Men’s Shed. The cited evidence is reproduced verbatim below:

  • ‘His sustained innovatory approach to education over many years. That approach won him the G.S Browne Prize for outstanding educational practice and successful use of teaching methods on teaching by a classroom teacher in 1970. [then age 30]
  • His actions in seeking out and developing programs to cater for the individual needs of individual children.
  • His sustained and successful efforts to utilise resources from departmental, Commonwealth programs and community resources to further the educational and cultural opportunities for children and the community generally.
  • His efforts to develop teachers and programs within and beyond his own school.’

Dick’s first early experiment with community education for adults in Tongala was The Cottage. Created in tandem with Murray Ross, a local graphic artist, it was for many years a local activity centre opposite the Tongala Swimming Pool. Like the Men’s Shed, McGowan regarded it as a place to go and do things.

Dick was a major contributor to the creation and regional success of the Country Education Project (CEP) model in Victoria, which was still operating in 2015. McGowan wrote in 1981 that he regarded CEP as ‘a grass roots, self help scheme. According to Gordon McDowell (21 May 2015 email)

Don Edgar and Dick developed the innovative CEP [Country Education project model. If not, he certainly had the task along with Don of selling the concept around the state [of Victoria]’.

The CEP North Central Area Information Booklet from 1979 provides a brief history of CEP, which Dick McGowan was closely associated with from its inception in 1977. At one stage Dick

… was the Director of CEP under the Chairmanship of Dr Don Edgar. Within this role he advocated for and supported a wide range of education initiatives within rural and remote communities if Victoria that we often take for granted today’ (‘A rural educators contribution to the Men’s Shed Movement’, CEP Newsletter, 2015).

For eight years from 1985 Dick spearheaded the creation of a radical Conductive Education School in Tongala for children with neurological disorders. The Conductive Education model was first pioneered in Hungary and focused on young children with cerebral palsy. Whilst operating, the Tongala-based program that Lynne Cooper became an important part of ‘worked with around 150 families from all states of Australia, from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea’. In a huge advertisement thanking donors and supporters as the School was forced to close in early 1992, Dick listed over 100 individual sponsors and 150 community organisations, including 23 CWA Branches, 13 Catholic Women’s Leagues, and nine Lions Clubs that had provided support.

Dick took a 54 year 11 month ‘early departure package’ from his position as Primary School Vice Principal, as part of the aggressive Jeff Kennett-era school restructure and closure program. Kennett, to 2015 Chair of beyondblue, a national depression initiative, was the Victorian Liberal Premier from 1992 until his electoral defeat by Steve Bracks in September 1999. In the first three years of Kennett’s Premiership, 350 government schools were closed and 7,000 teaching jobs were eliminated. The campaign of privatisation and cutbacks that led to people losing their jobs was popularly known as ‘being Jeffed’. In several ways, ‘being Jeffed’ on what he described as a ‘Kennett Scholarship’ arguably spurred Dick to find ways of helping other men debilitated and not in work for a wide range of other reasons: and to the invention of his Men’s Shed in a community setting

Dick was an unwell man for much of the last decade of his life before his early death at age 59 in 1999, only one year after his remarkable Men’s Shed, effectively the first in the world, was formally opened by Sharman Stone, MHR. Dick had his first, then undiagnosed heart attack in 1981 and his second major attack in October 1997 in the period where he was working tirelessly to get his Men’s Shed funded and built. Dick also suffered from poorly managed diabetes, leading in his final year to several lower limb amputations and restriction to a wheelchair.

A ‘testimonial celebration’ including a concert and dinner was held for Dick and Ruth in their honour in April-May 1999. In thanking the Tongala community for their thoughtfulness and generosity on 15 May 1999, Dick noted that the move to Tongala had been ‘the move of a lifetime’, and selflessly said, “Friends, without you there would be no past; without you there would be no future.” Ruth McGowan remarked in a 2015 interview with Rob and Olya Willis for the National Sound Archives in Canberra that a lot of what Dick wanted to do with and for the Men’s Shed in Tongala did not happen because of his heart attack. If only Dick knew what he had started.

As a final postscript, a small group of older Tongala men that dubbed themselves ‘The Bike Brigade’ regularly rode their bicycles to the Men’s Shed with Hec Macleod as their leader. Gordon, Cox who died at age 102, rode his bike to the Men’s Shed until he was 95. Bert Andrews, a returned serviceman from the Second World War was the only member of the Men’s Shed Bike Brigade surviving to May 2015.


Golding, B. (Ed.) (2015) The Men’s Shed Movement, The Company of Men. Champaign: Common Ground Publishing.

if you have any information that can help enhance (or correct) any of this brief and partial account of Dick McGowan’s life and community contributions, please contact Barry Golding.

Tongala Celebration of the World’s First Men’s Shed, 16 Nov 2015, 1pm

‘Bringing it all Back Home’, Book Launch, 16 November, 2015,

Tongala Men’s Shed, Tongala, Victoria, Australia


The ‘Tongala Men’s Shed’, originally opened in July 1998 as ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’, is identified in Professor Barry Golding’s recently published Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book as the oldest Men’s Shed opened by that name in a community setting anywhere in the world.

Below is a press cutting from December 1997 confirming receipt of a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a Men’s Shed in Tongala.


With 1,500 Sheds open globally, 30 per cent of which are outside of Australia, the Men’s Shed in Tongala, opened as The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed in Dick’s honour was indeed a ‘Great Beginning’, as the late Dick McGowan wrote in 1998.

It is fitting that the celebratory launch of the first definitive book about the now international Movement is taking place in the first ever Men’s Shed. Dr Sharman Stone, Member for Murray who launched in the Shed over 17 years ago has generously agreed to return to launch the book. In many senses, this event is a celebration.

This public opening, to which everyone is welcome, celebrates the role and impact of all previous and current Victorian Men’s Sheds, and welcomes several early and very influential people involved in Men’s Sheds and the Movement in Victoria.

This gathering and celebration of the Shed has been organised by the Victorian Men’s Shed Association (VMSA) in collaboration with the Tongala Aged Care Centre, with the support of the broader Tongala community and the Victorian shedder community.

Our guest of honour is Ruth McGowan, a long time and highly respected shedder in the Tongala Men’s Shed and widow of the late and great Dick McGowan.

Paul Sladdin, current Board member of the Australian Men’s Shed Association, former President of the Victorian Men’s Shed Association from Mansfield has been invited to act as MC.

Many Men’s Sheds across Victoria  have indicated their intention of participating in this historic event. Any Sheds in nearby southern New South Wales are also most welcome.

Some copies of the ‘Men’s Shed Movement’ book will be available for sale and signing from Barry Golding at the launch for $40. Additional copies can also be ordered (including postage for $50) via Barry, email with a preferred postal address. Payment is by invoice, via BSB bank transfer or cheque.


Public Book Launch and Unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque


  • 1.00pm Welcome Cuppa
    • 1.30pm Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome (MC Paul Sladdin, Board Member, AMSA)
    • 1.35pm Welcome to Tongala Aged Care Centre (Jean Courtney)
    • 1.40pm Introduction to The Men’s Shed MovementBook and its author (Paul Sladdin)
    • 1.50 pm The importance of ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’ and Dick McGowan’s role (Professor Barry Golding).
    • 2.20pm Address and book launch (Dr Sharman Stone. MHR, Member for Murray).
    • 2.40pm Unveiling of The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed, commemorative plaque (Ruth McGowan).
    • 2.50pm ‘The important role of VMSA and AMSA in shaping the national Men’s Shed Movement’ (Paul Sladdin)
    • 3.00pm Afternoon Tea.
    • 3.00pm CLOSE

Sincere Thanks to:

  • Tongala Aged Care Centre (Jean Courtney & Sara Tee).
  • Dr Sharman Stone, MHR, Member for Murray.
  • Victorian Men’s Shed Association (Ric Blackburn CEO & Phil Keily, President)
  • Australian Men’s Shed Association (David Helmers, CEO & Board Member, Paul Sladdin).
  • Tongala Men’s Shed.
  • All Men’s Sheds participating in the Tongala event.
  • Stephen Dunn (CEO, Adult Learning Australia).
  • Ruth McGowan, Tongala.
  • Federation University Australia, Ballarat (Barry Golding).
  • Chris Bettle (Canberra).